Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation (Uncorrected Proof)


Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok | LibraryThing

Kwok, J. (2010). Girl in translation. (Uncorrected Proof).  New York: Riverhead Books. 9781594487569

When I attended a meeting at HCPL’s Administrative Office, many uncorrected proofs awaited new readers. I picked up half a dozen that day, including Girl in Translation. As I didn’t want to lose a library book between here and England, I took Girl in Translation with me.

Kimberly Chang and her mother leave behind Hong Kong to pursue the American Dream sometime in the 1980s. Since they know very little English, the Changs depend on Kimberly’s Aunt Paula. Aunt Paula installs them in a Brooklyn slum and in her sweatshop. Soon, Kimberly leads two lives – stellar student by day and Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. She struggles through squalor, deprivation, and a crushing crush on an underachieving boy at the factory; Kimberly also navigates the social strata in a preppy white world. Bridging cultural and generational gaps, Kimberly must be strong to “make it.”

Kwok clearly draws her characters, especially Kimberly and her mother. My favorite character was Mrs. Chang because she was an empathetic person. I despised Aunt Paula. Another amusing thing Kwok writes is how Kimberly hears certain English words. I won’t remark on what Kimberly actually asked her teacher for when she needed an eraser.

What I didn’t like about this story was the ending. Most of all, what happened to Kimberly’s best friend Annette in the conclusion? I missed Annette because I considered her an impetus in Kimberly’s education. While I found the deprivation believable, I couldn’t buy some of the other things. I’m sad to say I really didn’t enjoy this book.

Two Out of Five Pearls

Song: Spin Doctors – Two Princes – YouTube

Places : Hong Kong, New York City,

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Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Ford, J. (2009). Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet: A novel. New York: Ballantine Books. 9780345505330

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford | LibraryThing

I glimpsed a favorable review of this book in one of those professional journals we’re expected to read at work. With my interest piqued, I requested Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet through HCPL.

The book alternates between two different time periods. In 1986, Henry Lee approaches the Panama Hotel in Seattle just as the new owner brings to light items which Japanese Americans stowed before their evacuation to the internment camps. As a recent widower, Henry’s reverie is jolted and he springs into action, baffling his grown son Marty.

The other time period is 1942, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Twelve-year old Henry lives under the thumb of his very Chinese father. His parents no longer permit him to communicate in their tongue, insisting he must speak English always. Henry is on scholarship at the white kid school and he works in the cafeteria. Here, he meets the lovely Japanese-American Keiko Okabe. Their bond transcends ethnicity as they enjoy jazz and folks that don’t look exactly like themselves.

I enjoyed this story for the most part. Ford brought Henry, Marty, and Keiko to life brilliantly. The Seattle Jazz scene also fascinated me. It’s also easy to see what motivates the characters, even Henry’s nationalist father.

My only snide remark regards Marty participating in an Internet support group in his grieving. . . in 1986! Say what? I realize Marty’s a smart guy but this is too much of a stretch.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good

Places : Seattle, Washington State, Idaho, New York City, China, Japan

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