Girl in Translation (Jean Kwok)

Girl in Translation portrays the story of Kimberly Chang, a young immigrant from Hong Kong, who faces numerous obstacles while striving for a better life in America. It explores themes of cultural adaptation, resilience, and the pursuit of the American Dream through Kimberly’s experiences and challenges.

Author: Jean Kwok
Project: Identity Hybrid Cultural Identity
Year of publication: 2010
Pages: 290





Plot Complexity: moderate
Language Complexity: moderate
Ideas Complexity: moderate

Girl in Translation offers a moderately complex plot with multiple layers and interwoven story lines. The language used is more advanced than the basic level, incorporating richer vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures. The ideas explored in the novel are thought-provoking, delving deeper into themes related to cultural identity and the immigrant experience.



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 novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.


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