Anyone following along with my literary adventures can clearly see I have a type. True, I am purposefully trying to read novels by African women, but I do find myself drawn to novels about the immigrant experience or coming of age. Also, I tend to read women authors more so than men. So, this one is not that different.
Girl in Translation is an easy to read novel (like a Young Adult Fiction) about a smart girl who emigrates from Hong Kong with her mother and unexpectedly finds herself living in squalor in Brooklyn and working in a Chinatown sweatshop while being a genius in school and trying to adjust to a new country, with new rules, and new social mores. This double life with its pressure to succeed, the weight of the entire family on one’s shoulders, duty to family versus caving in to one’s own desires, and of course culture shock are beautifully explored. Weaved throughout is love and heartbreak.
Girl in Translation is the debut novel of Jean Kwok herself a child immigrant from Hong Kong who grew up poor in New York City. Drawn upon personal experiences, the novel was published in 2010 and became a New York Times bestseller.
I will say though that I found the last few chapters disappointing. The book starts out captivating then somehow becomes superficial and improbable, but hey, overall it is thoroughly absorbing even if you are not into culture shock immigrant stories!