Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Challenge 2013: Book 9 - Girl In Translation

After my intended book for this month fell through (longer line at the library), I accidentially came across this book. As I had nothing else planned (and since I've been an immigrant in the U.S. as well, even though the circumstances could not have been any more different), I thought why not give it a shot.

The Hard Facts:
Title: Girl In Translation
Author: Jean Kwok
320 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade; reprint edition (May 3, 2011)
ISBN: 1594485151

Find it on Amazon

The Story:
Kim Chang and her mother, who only recently recovered from tuberculosis, are brought to the U.S. by Mrs. Chang's sister, Paula, who years ago had married an Chinese American man. Back then, Kim's mother was supposed to marry the man from the U.S. herself, but opted for a love marriage with another Hong Kong Chinese and her younger sister ended up marrying the visitor from the U.S. After their arrival, Kim has to adopt the American name Kimberly and is deposited at a run-down, pest-ridden apartment in the Bronx, which are already set for tear-down. Kim is sent to a Middle School in a better neighborhood and her mom is given a job at her brother-in-law's sweatshop. The work is so hard that Kim has to go to the factory to help her mother finish up. Slowly, Kim learns English, she finds a friend at her school, and adjusts to the American lifestyle as much as her extreme poverty allows, always trying to hide her second identity from her friends. Once the language barrier is overcome, Kim shows extraordinary abilities in school, and is offered a full scholarship to a private high school. As Aunt Paula finds out, she is jealous but able to control herself, knowing Kim and her mother under her total control otherwise. During high school, Kim falls in love with a boy also working at the sweat shop, Matt. She sees boys from school, and as Matt starts dating another girl, Kim becomes more serious with another boy from high school, Curt, who she tutors as part of her tuition program. Towards the end of her time in high school, Kim realizes she wants to study to be a doctor at Yale and applies for a scholarship. One day, while Kim is at school, Matt shows up in tears, seeing her hand in hand with Curt. He runs off, but Kim follows him. He tells her that his mother, who had been the one holding the family together had died. Kim, who had known the woman well, is shocked and takes Matt home. There, they sleep together. From then on, they are a couple, enjoying a summer together. Suddenly, Kim finds out that she was accepted to Yale with a full scholarship as Aunt Paula presents the enrollment papers that were sent to her address. Kim calls her out on her jealousy and announces that she and her mother would be moving to a new apartment and also had another job in a jewelry company lined up. However, Matt is not excited about Kim's acceptance at Yale; he asks her to decline and build a life with him, while Kim asks him to come to Yale with her and start out new. However, she realizes that there won't be a compromise that makes both of them happy. She breaks up with Matt, and finds out she's pregnant. Kim panicks, seeing  the life she worked that hard for disappear. Her high school friend Curt offers to marry her to give her the financial freedom to study, but she declines, as she had already made up her mind to have an abortion.
Twelve years later, Kim is a noted pediatric surgeon. One day, Matt comes to her hospital to talk to her. They talked about their lives, and what could have been, if Kim had not had an abortion. Acknowledging the final closure of his relationship, Matt returns to his family, and Kim goes home to her mother - and 12-year old son, Jason.

My Opinion:
A strong book on a strong girl, who doesn't let anything get in her way in achieving her goals. It offers a glimps into the dark world of America, where men, women, and even children slave away for a far below living wage. But I love the message of education and determination being the way out of the slum. I liked the book!


  1. This sounds like a book I would love, thank you for sharing! :)

    1. It was definitely an enjoyable reading. No high literature, but a decent novel. If you read it, let me know what you think!