A sheet of melting ice lay over the concrete. I watched my rubber boots closely, the way the toes slid on the ice, the way the heels splintered it. Ice was something I had only known in the form of small pieces in red bean drinks. This ice was wild ice, ice that defied streets and buildings.
"We are so lucky that a spot in one of Mr. N.'s buildings opened up," Aunt Paula had said as we drove to our new neighborhood. "You will have to fix it up, of course, but real estate in New York is so expensive! This is very cheap for what you're getting."
I could hardly sit still in the car and kept twisting my head, looking for skyscrapers. I didn't find any. I longed to see the New York I had heard about in school: Min-hat-ton, glistening department stores, and most of all, the Liberty Goddess, standing proud in New York Harbor. As we drove, the highways turned into impossibly broad avenues, stretching out into the distance. The buildings became dirtier, with broken windows and English writing spray-painted over the walls. We made a few more turns, passing people who were waiting in a long line, despite the early hour, and then Uncle Bob parked next to a three-story building with a boarded-up storefront. I thought he was stopping to make a pick-up of some sort, but then everyone had gotten out of the car onto the icy pavement.
The people in line were waiting to go into the doorway to our right, with a sign that said "Department of Social Services." I wasn't sure what that was. Almost everyone was black. I'd never seen black people before and a woman near the front, whom I could observe most clearly, had skin as dark as coal and gold beads gleaming in her cloud-like hair. Despite the frayed coat she wore, she was breathtaking. Some people were dressed in regular clothes but some looked exhausted and unkempt, with glazed eyes and unwashed hair.
"Don't stare," Aunt Paula hissed at me. "You might attract their attention."
I turned around and the adults had already unloaded our few possessions, which were now piled by the boarded-up storefront. We had three tweed suitcases, Ma's violin case, a few bulky packages wrapped in brown paper, and a broom. There was a large wet spot at the bottom of the front door.
"What is that, Ma?"
She bent close and peered at it.
"Don't touch that," Uncle Bob said from behind us. "It's pee."
We both sprang backwards.
Aunt Paula laid a gloved hand on our shoulders. "Don’t worry, " she said, although I didn't find her expression reassuring. She looked uncomfortable and a bit embarrassed. "The people in your apartment moved out recently so I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but remember, if there are any problems, we will fix them. Together. Because we are family."
Ma sighed and put her hand on top of Aunt Paula's. "Good."
Copyright © 2010 by Jean Kwok
When young Kimberly Chang emigrates from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, she begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl by day, sweatshop worker by night. Barely able to speak English at first, she has to constantly translate not just the language but herself as she shuttles between both worlds, trying to hide her poverty from her schoolmates, live up to her family duties and cope with her secret crush on a boy who shares none of her talent or ambition.
Written by Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, Girl in Translation dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant torn between two cultures, surrounded by customs and a language only half understood. It’s an unforgettable tale of hardship, triumph and love.
Hardcover Book : 304 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books ( April 29, 2010 )
Item #: 12-948470
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.72inches
Product Weight: 12.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
I read this book in three days! I agree with Devon. EVERY HIGH SCHOOL SHOULD MAKE THIS BOOK A A MUST READ. Was hoping there would be a sequel.
this book was a good read. although, i agree with Amy below (reviewed 2/8/11) that the ending wasn't what i was expecting. still worth the read though. an inspiring story of determination and hope that you can be whatever you aspire to be through hard work.
Reviewer: Jenna H
I should preface this review by saying that I did enjoy reading most of the book. The reason I gave it a low rating is due to the ending... not to worry I won't spoil.
The first 2/3 were so interesting and informative that I was thoroughly involved with the characters, so that when I started reading the last 1/3 I was thoroughly disappointed with the book.
The conclusion is implausible and doesn't fit the intelligence of the protagonist. Sadly, I felt the writer wasn't sure how she should conclude the story and therefore decided to add drama by creating a story arc that - while possible and certainly realistic - ended poorly without forethought and turned a novel that could have been based on true experiences into a mass market paperback found in drugstores.
This is a fine novel, sure to become a classic. It's an engaging story about a poverty-stricken immigrant coming of age. The characters are all too believable and the story is fascinating, especially since the author was herself an immigrant who worked in a sweatshop. This is undoubtably one of the best books I have ever read.
Reviewer: Suzy H
A very meaningful and touching book. A joy to read and leaves you thinking of it afterwards.