I immediately fell for Kimberly, the heroine of this story, who finds herself in Brooklyn from Hong Kong with her mother in a roach infested apartment that has no windows or heat. Jean Kwok takes us on this journey through the pain and torture that they endure as a family by working ridiculous hours at a Chinatown sweatshop. Because of Kimberly’s will to succeed, she goes to school during the day and works at night.
Similar to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Kimberly is a brilliant young girl who is desperately trying to make a way for herself but always keeping her dear mother in mind. Her aunt Paula, who left for America several years before, is filled with jealousy and hate towards Kimberly because she is smarter and filled with more opportunity than her own son. Not only that, we learn that her aunt holds a deeper insecurity towards her own sister.
Throughout the novel, I found myself cheering for Kimberly and yelling at her sometimes for not speaking up. But as I watched her mature and love, I noticed how she built a sense of confidence within herself and her own knowledge– she became a force to be reckoned with.
Girl in Translation is a beautiful novel about the Chinese immigration journey in coming to America in search of a dream. The search for the American dream isn’t the only thing apparent– the blood, sweat and tears is magnified as it further confirms that we can have anything we want as long as we put in the work for it.