Books / Contemporary Fiction

Girl in Translation: Writing Poverty and Immigration

In today’s political climate, positive visions of China are few and far between. Eclipsed by concerns about Mexican illegal immigration, Chinese immigrant conditions have taken a backseat. Nonetheless, Chinese immigration to America has a long and harrowing history. Consider, for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was not repealed until 1943. Or, the slave labor conditions which Chinese immigrants endured in building the Transcontinental Railroad.

Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation brings readers up-to-date with a vision of Chinese immigration to the United States in present day. Her book provides a window into the life of an impoverished first generation Chinese immigrant family through the eyes of her plucky, gifted heroine Kimberly Chang. The reader follows Kimberly from her first day of grade school, where she speaks almost no English, to her high school years and eventually to college.

Kwok’s Girl in Translation is a heart warming tale which deals with big issues like poverty, slums, illegal labor, love, and the trials of integrating into a new culture while being true to yourself. Yet, all the while, the author maintains a humorous and accessible voice.

Girl in Translation pulls you in with wonderfully developed characters you can’t help but love. Kwok reminds her readers of the essential humanity of all peoples and calls her audience to acceptance and action in a subtle, yet effective way.

Girl in Translation is a light, yet absorbing novel with a big heart.

Treat yourself today.


~ Michelle


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