Girl in Translation
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Introducing a fresh, exciting new voice, an inspiring debut about a Chinese immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures.
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life-like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition-Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.
Through Kimberly's story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic American immigrant novel—a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.
wore large rose-tinted glasses that barely covered the enormous bags under her eyes. When the mother saw me, she squinted through her thick lenses. “Are you a boy or a girl?” she asked. Matt stifled a laugh. I knew I looked like a boy, completely flat-chested, with my hair cut short by Ma because of the Hong Kong heat. I wished I could disappear. The other boy next to Mrs. Wu was slight, with glasses that dangled from his protruding ears. He didn’t look up. He only kept working on the same
taught. Many of the other kids just shrugged when he criticized them or gave them failing grades. They had already given up. But I had just come from being the star at my old school, where I’d won prizes in Chinese and math in interschool competitions. I would have given anything to do well in school again because I didn’t know how else I would be able to help Ma and me escape from the factory. Mr. Bogart must have realized I was smart, but he seemed to dislike me anyway. Perhaps he thought I was
Paula’s back, he caught my eye and pretended to scratch himself, in an imitation of her. I stifled a laugh. When we entered the office, Aunt Paula invited us to sit down. Uncle Bob must have been out. “I have some mail for Kimberly.” She held out a thick manila envelope with the crest of Harrison Prep stamped on it. I took it. Despite Aunt Paula’s casual manner, I felt nervous. Why hadn’t she just given it to us at our workstation? Bringing us here meant she wanted to talk or to find out
smile, and I saw that she, at least, was convinced of my innocence. I glanced at the other students surreptitiously and saw most of the class watching us. The knot in my stomach began to loosen. I only hoped that Dr. Copeland didn’t have any remaining doubts either. It was also in the eighth grade that we finally got a phone at home. I knew the monthly payments pained Ma, but I was too ashamed to be the one omission in the stapled school telephone directory everyone received. It seemed to
impossible to remove it all. When I approached Ma at our workstation, she said, “Ay yah, ah-Kim! What have you done?” “Annette had a bottle of new perfume with her. She let me try some.” “Some! You must have taken a bath in it!” Luckily, Ma didn’t pursue it any further. But that night, as I bent over my books, I could still smell the lingering perfume on my clothes and wrists, and I felt surrounded by the warmth of Annette’s friendship, by her confidence in me. I wondered if that had been her