"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

I liked this book because it's different than anything I've read recently. I've read a lot of Asian literature but none from an immigrant child's point-of-view. I had never considered how some things we say are heard and interpreted. I had also never considered the different type of pressure applied to youths in America than in other countries. When Kimberly remarks on how she was only expected to get good grades in Hong Kong but in America she is expected to get good grades, have some kind of athletic ability, and have straight teeth- I laughed out loud. There is some veracity to the idea that having one of those attributes is often not enough. I also appreciated the duo's first trip to the factory when all the people accompanying them were headed to the same place, or at the least, the same kind of place, and Kimberly says something like, 'On the trains to the factory.... as if that were the place to which all roads led'. It certainly seems that way for people stuck in that life. The poverty is passed down from one generation to the next, all roads leading to the same hard life.

What I found difficult about this book is that there was too much- but not enough. The author tried to cover so much of this girl's life, every aspect, that there wasn't enough of any of it. I didn't get a deep-seated feeling about how difficult her life was or how much she missed being a normal child/teenager for most of the book and when you finally do start to get that- it's over. She's on to the difficulties of her young adult life and then in a flash she's an adult. There wasn't enough to the end for me. I wanted more, more closure, more details. I wouldn't have minded getting a peek into mom's thoughts either. Or Mrs. Avery- what must she have been thinking? I think a format like that used in the novels of Jodi Picoult would have given this story more dimension and impact.Overall a good read- quick, funny, and insightful. I wouldn't discourage anyone from picking it up but it didn't  impact me enough to make it to the list of books I would recommend to others.If this book were a movie I would rent it before it was on HBO- but I wouldn't pay theater prices for it :0).

You will find an official plot line description at:

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