Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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Aug 17, 2010

Girl in TranslationKimberly Chang is eleven years old when she and her mother come to America shortly before Mainland China resumes control over Hong Kong. Her aunt Paula (Kimberly's mother's older sister) along with her husband Bob act as Kimberly and her mother's sponsors covering all expenses for travel, visas, and an apartment in New York City. The apartment is in a condemned building that Paula's husband owns, and it has no heat so Kim and her mother resort to using an oven for heat during the winter. To make matters worse the apartment is infested with roaches and mice. What Kim and her mom don't realize is that they will be responsible to her Aunt Paula for all of the travel expenses in addition to the apartment rent. The job that Paula provides is in a sweatshop where Kim's mother works 14-16 hour days six days a week. Kim joins her every day after school and on Saturdays so she can help her mother meet her piecework quota. After Paula's husband subtracts the travel and visa expenses from Kim's mother's paycheck there is hardly anything left for food and other necessities. They both realize that Kim's education will be the only way out of this situation. As a former English as a Second Language teacher of new immigrants I was reminded once again of the hard times that non-English speaking people have when they come to this country. Recently the local newspaper made us aware of this type of 'slavery' here in Kansas City. There were parts of this book that were really hard to read. As a child coming to the Brooklyn from China the author had an experience very similar to Kim's In this novel she's able to expose the lives that many non-English speaking immigrants experience when they come to America. I highly recommend this novel.

Written by Barb W.

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