Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
This debut has been getting a lot of great reviews. It didn't get on my radar until the author stopped at the bookstore I work at, to sign stock. She was very nice and took the time to tell me what the story was about. It sounded like something I would like, so I decided to give it a go.
Set in 1980's. 11 yr old Ah Kim and her mother immigrant from China to the United States. Ah Kim's westernized name is Kimberly. Mother and daughter must live and work in awful conditions . Kimberly's aunt Paula paid for their trip, now they are in her debt. Kimberly's mother works at aunt Paula's sweatshop factory in Chinatown. She is paid by the piece. Thanks to aunt Paula, they live in very poor neighborhood in Brooklyn. There are no other tenants in their run down building unless you count the roaches, rats and mice.
When Kimberly understands English better she starts to excel at school again. Though, I found it hard to believe she got a perfect score on a standardized test in high school. She had mastered English by than and students do get perfect score but its very rare. I didn't need perfection to believe in Kimberly's intelligence, I was actually thrown off by it. Kimberly's mother doesn't speak English. So, its up to Kimberly to improve their situation. She must balance her two worlds, top student at a private school and child worker.
Girl in Translation very readable. I couldn't put it down. Kwok didn't do anything special, that's part of its appeal. There's something to be said for a well told story that is what it is without trying to be more. Kwok has created a well rounded and believable protagonist in Kimberly.
If you read my personal blog, you know I read a lot of young adult fiction. Girl in Translation is fiction but it could've easily been YA. Since it is a coming of age story. Either way its a very good.