Thursday, July 22, 2010
Book Review: Girl in Translation
AMAZING!!!! Can I leave it at that? No, you want more details? Okay here we go. First let me just reassure you that this is no ordinary coming of age story. We meet Ah-Kim (Kimberly) as she and her mother arrive in New York straight from Hong Kong. They hardly know anyone and they don't speak any English. Kimberly's Aunt Paula funded their trip to American and now they are indebted to her. Aunt Paula intends to collect on that debt no matter what. They are forced to live in a condemned building with no heat, but many roaches. After the mother begins her new life working in Aunt Paula's sweatshop, Kimberly begins to lead a double life: student by day, sweatshop worker by night. She knows that the only way the family will survive is if she gets an education and is able to take her mother away from the sweatshop. The book takes us with Kimberly as she goes from middles school to high school and beyond. As we all know that particular time span in our lives is full of joys and pains, self-discovery and experimentation. Kimberly is no different.
It is a remarkable story for many reasons. When I opened the book, I was sucked in right away. Within the first few pages they enter their new apartment and I could feel the cold, see the roaches and breathe in the dust. Jean Kwok set each scene so well. I really feel like I have experienced the noise and heat and grim of a sweatshop. Ms. Kwok does say she spent time working in a sweatshop as a child so everything about this book feels authentic and real. This is her debut novel and I'm delighted it seems to be getting lots of buzz. I also like the cover of the book which is just simple and beautiful. I love book covers. Even though it seems that the e-book is taking over real books, you can't beat actually being able to run your hands over a picture or the smell of a book. Girl in Translation is one of those books that I will read again and will gaze at lovingly on my bookshelf. You can't do that with those silly e-readers. I look forward to more books by