Girl in Translation


Author: Jean Kwok

Title: Girl in Translation

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: April 2010

Number of Pages: 304 pages

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: Early 90’s to Modern Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Kimberly Chang and her mother are full of hopes and aspirations, having newly immigrated to the United States, until the realities of living in their downtrodden neighborhood in Brooklyn began to take a toll on them.  Not only do they have to live without heat in the dead of winter, Kimberly and her mother are both forced to work at her Aunt Paula’s factory under sweatshop conditions in order to pay back their debt to their Aunt and make ends meet.  The saving grace of Kimberly’s life is school, where she has to rely on her intellects to find a way out of their exasperating living situation.  However, she constantly feels as if she is keeping a huge secret from her friends at school, and experiences difficulty in breaking the cultural barrier between herself and her American counterparts.  Her only true friend is Matt, a fellow Chinese youngster who works at the factory, but things get complicated when she realizes that she has feelings for Matt beyond that of pure friendship.  This is a tale of love, friendship and the bond between a mother and child that is so strong it takes them through the hardest of times in their lives.

Subject Headings: Women immigrants, Chinese Immigrants, Sweatshops, Poverty, Cultural Differences, Chinese-Americans, Assimilation, Private Schools, Social Acceptance, Coming-of-Age, Self-Discovery, Power Struggles, Malicious Accusations, Cultural Conflicts

Appeal terms: Character-driven, Angst-Ridden, Bittersweet, Confrontational, Dramatic, Fierce, Intense, Searching, Emotionally-Charged, Engrossing, Thought-Provoking, Introspective, Authentic, Candid, Urgent

3 terms that best describe this book: Chinese-American Immigrants, Growing-Up, Cultural Conflicts

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love by Xinran
Various stories from Chinese mothers are collected in this book about the many Chinese women who were not allowed to keep their daughters because of China’s law and outdated cultural beliefs.  This book finally gives a voice to the downtrodden Chinese women who were unable to escape their difficult situations.

I Love Yous are for White People by Lac Su
A memoir of Lac’s escape from Vietnam to the United States, where they experience a different kind of horror in the poor living conditions of West Los Angeles.

My Mom is a Fob: Earnest Advice in Broken English from Your Asian-American Mom by Teresa Wu
A humorous look at the unsolicited and often misunderstood advice that Asian mothers try to give to their fully-assimilated Asian-American children.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Happy Family by Wendy Lee
Hua Wu, a Chinese immigrant living in New York, meets Jane Templeton and her adopted Chinese daughter, Lily, at a park and becomes their nanny.  Eventually, the crumbling marriage of Jane forces Hua to make decisions on what would be best for Lily.

Bordertown: A Novel by Congwen Shen
13-year-old Cuicui is living in a small rural town in China right before the Communist revolution with her beloved grandfather, and as she grows up she is forced to reconcile the tranquility of her childhood to the turbulent events of her present.

Shanghai Girls: A Novel by Lisa See
Two wealthy sisters, whose fortune is about to dissipate, makes the decision to immigrate to the United States, where they are greeted by more hardships and cultural conflicts than they had ever expected.

Name: Lian Sze


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