Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

girl in translationGirl in Translation is the story of Kimberly Chang, who immigrates with her mother to New York from Hong Kong as a young girl.  Living in a condemned, unheated building in Brooklyn, Kim divides her days between school, where she struggles to learn English, and the Chinatown sweatshop where her mother works.  Yet even as she straddles two very different worlds, Kim’s adolescence is filled with the normal teenage experiences — cramming for exams, spats with best friends, applying for college, and falling in love.

“Even now, my predominant memory of that phase of my life is of the cold.  Cold like the way your skin feels after you’ve been slapped, such painful tingling that you can hardly tell if it’s hot or cold.  It simply registers as suffering.  Cold that crept down your throat, under your toes and between your fingers, wrapped itself around your lungs and your heart. […] Slowly, a sheet of ice grew over the inside of the windows, a layer of distortion spread thick across the panes.  As I stared outside, I used my blueing fingers to melt circles in it, trying to reach the clear glass underneath.”

Girl in Translation is Jean Kwok‘s debut novel.  Born in Hong Kong, she immigrated with her family to Brooklyn at the age of five and, like her protagonist, worked in a Chinatown factory throughout her childhood.  She lives in the Netherlands.

Published:  2010
Length:  283 pages
Set in:  New York, United States



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