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Girl in Translation Paperback – 2 Jun 2011

26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141042745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141042749
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 293,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jean Kwok immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. She won early admission to Harvard, where she worked as many as four jobs at a time, and graduated with honors in English and American literature, before going on to earn an MFA in fiction at Columbia.

Her debut novel Girl in Translation (Riverhead, 2010) became a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in 15 countries and chosen as the winner of an American Library Association Alex Award, a John Gardner Fiction Book Award finalist, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, an Orange New Writers title, an Indie Next Pick, a Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award nominee and the winner of Best Cultural Book in Book Bloggers Appreciation Week 2010. It was featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. The novel was a Blue Ribbon Pick for numerous book clubs, including Book of the Month, Doubleday and Literary Guild. She lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two sons.

Learn more about Jean here:
http://www.jeankwok.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jean-Kwok/213583280524

Product Description

Review

Warm, affecting, a compelling pleasure. Manages that rare fictional feat of shifting forever the angle from which you look at the world (Daily Mail)

A sensitively handled rites-of-passage account . . . has the unmistakable ring of authenticity (Metro)

Deceptively delicate . . . the stumbling endurance of Kimberley, the bond between mother and daughter, and the clever use of Chinese culture and tradition make for more than a salutary read (Guardian)

Incredibly honest and powerful, written with unflinching directness . . . a truly amazing story that'll leave you full of admiration and affection for the characters (Easy Living)

Engagingly narrated, irresistible (Independent)

Astonishing (Vogue)

About the Author

Jean Kwok was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to Brooklyn, New York as a child. She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard and completed an MFA in fiction at Columbia University. After working as an English teacher and Dutch-English translator at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Jean now writes full-time. This is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tamara L on 30 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
I am guessing I will be in a minority giving this only three stars and perhaps I am being a bit harsh. It is a very readable account of a young Chinese girl growing up in New York under harsh, exploitative conditions. I enjoyed it while I was reading it but as I got closer to the end it started to pall a bit. The descriptions of her outstanding genius which never faltered under any circumstances - Scoring off-the-scale in tests even after being up all night and having poor English etc, got a bit tiresome, and the grinding poverty was all very Angela's Ashes - the Chinese American Version. What started as a promising Coming of Age novel turned into a cliched romance, albeit a thwarted one. Enjoyable but ultimately superficial. Not in the same league as Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld which covers similar adolescent emotional territory about feeling like an outsider. A good read if that's what you're looking for but ultimately a let down if you want something with more depth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stepping Out of the Page on 17 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
This book isn't really like anything I've read before. Numerous times I had to check and remind myself that it wasn't actually a memoir - the authenticity of this book is amazing. Kimberly's voice is so very real. I didn't agree with a few of the things that she thought and this didn't particularly make me warm to her, but I understand and expect her thoughts to be different to my own, thanks to her culture. This book gives a very good insight of a Chinese mother and daughter who have immigrated into America - a very different society and culture to that which they are accustomed to. The struggles of the Changs were well documented and quite powerful - from the language difference to the difficult working and living conditions. I found the romance in this book to be very touching and the ending was not very expected. Although it was a quite open ending, it also wrapped up most things that had been discussed. This is a fantastic debut novel from Kwok and it's something that I would recommend to anyone looking for a different, cultural read.
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Format: Paperback
Kimberly and her mother are sponsored out of Hong Kong by their Chinese relatives, but instead of finding the streets paved with gold, they are forced to live in a squalid apartment and work horrendous hours in a sweatshop for low wages to pay off their debt to Aunt Paula and Uncle Bob. They work as garment finishers, and are paid a pittance in piece work for each finished garment; their poverty is measured by how many skirts it would take to afford a new school bag, or pots and pans. In spite of extreme tiredness, the inability to speak good English and a lack of money to pay for heating and clothing, Kimberly manages to overcome her vindictive schoolmaster, Mr Bogart, and win a scholarship to a prestigious private school, from which, through dint of hard work and precocious intellectual talents, she eventually goes to Yale. But the path to intellectual glory and the hope of financial comfort is paved with obstacles. Kimberly's mother constantly fails to pass her naturalisation exams. Her aunt insists on full payment of debts, despite familial ties and her own wealth, and esnures they remain in the squalor of their condemned apartment. After a long day of study, Kimberly often has to work through the night to help her mother. She is also isolated from her schoolfriends through pride, shame and consciousness of a life apart from the privileged private schoolchildren.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being an ethnic minority, I've always enjoyed reading books about the immigrant experience. I found the first half of the book enjoyable. It had all the makings of a great novel - poor immigrant suffering horrific living conditions and poverty in a bid to have a better life. I liked seeing the world through Kimberly's eyes and reading about her harsh experiences of working in a factory and trying to fit into American life. However, I found the second half of the book became more like a YA love story and in some ways soured the story. It was as if the narrative switched to become a story about puppy love, crushes and love triangles.

The author could have gone further with this book in covering more in depth feelings about identity issues, fitting in, racism etc. which are all very much part of many immigrant's experiences. I felt that I did not get a chance to get to know the characters as well as I wanted to as everything was very much on the surface. But saying that, I would consider reading this writer's next book as she definitely writes well. If you are looking for a feel good story - a beach read this is it. If you want a more in-depth book about the being an immigrant in a foreign land or find love stories soppy than this isn't for you.
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Format: Paperback
GIRL IN TRANSLATION is (yet another) `coming to America' book by a female Asian immigrant. It might be sold as a novel, but it certainly isn't.

After her father dies, sixth grader Kim comes to New York from Hong Kong with her mother. Kim as always top of her class back in HK and her mother was a school teacher. In NY they work in a sweatshop. A standard set of cultural misunderstandings occurs. Kim is indeed a clever child who soon goes to a private school, but still spends most of her free time at the sweatshop where she becomes close with Matt, who is the same age as her, but considerably more streetwise. Admitted to Yale, Kim quickly becomes pregnant... [spoiler deleted]

What can I say? GIRL IN TRANSLATION is a perfectly adequate example of its type, with nothing exceptional about it. It's a nice, silly, (or maybe heartwarming, depending on your POV) and no doubt many readers will enjoy it.

I found everything about it formulaic, predictable and dull. Many of the `anecdotes' are clearly doctored perhaps by a romantically flawed memory, or perhaps by the delusion the `fiction' is being created.
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