Rated Reads

Girl in Translation

by Jean Kwok

Rated: Mild

For Ah-Kim, her new life in America was supposed to be an improvement over life in Hong Kong. But after 10 years in China, Brooklyn is a major adjustment. To survive, her mother has to work like a slave in a factory while Kimberly struggles not to fail in school — the one place in China where she’d thrived.

So, the book is the story of Kim’s double life — her school life, where, clearly gifted, she has to try so hard to fit in and succeed, and then her home life, working at the factory and living in a practically condemned apartment.

This book reminded me so much of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but with a great “immigrant” twist and a deep cultural presence. I loved learning English along with Kim when the author would write what our language sounded like to her, and I liked all the explanations of Chinese expressions.

I think Girl in Translation has heart. I liked watching Kim learn and grow. I finally learned to appreciate that she, and especially her mom, did things differently than I would because of our cultural differences, and once I let that vague irritation go, I was able to relax a lot more when reading.

If you adored A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this one. And even if you haven’t read that yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if you liked it anyway.

Rated: Mild, for five mild expletives and one mild sexual scene

— Reviewed by Corinne Edwards

Corinne Edwards is always happiest when a book is in her hand. If her current read needs to be closed for a short time, either in her backpack while she leads her three rambunctious children on adventures, or on her nightstand while she sleeps, that's okay too. Her book thoughts and reviews land at her bookish blog, The Book Nest.

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  • Girl in Translation
  • by Jean Kwok
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: