Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday=Book Review Time--translating life

Up for Today: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (This review requested by Yat-Yee Chong.)

Girl In Translation

Why I bought it? It was September's read for my book club, and I downloaded it onto my Kindle.

Synopsis: Kimberly Chang is a brilliant student, but, when she and her mother arrive in New York City from China, she can only speak her 5th grade English--i.e. not much--and her mother speaks none. Beginning 6th grade is a challenge to say the least. They live in an apartment in a condemned building (lots of companionable roaches and rats and no heat)--arranged by her mother's sister. (With family like her who needs enemies?) They work in the sweatshop of the aforementioned loving sister and her husband and survive as best they can. I don't want to give any more away, because this story is lovely to discover as you read. If you want a bit more, you can go to Jean Kwok's synopsis on youtube.

What I thought? I loved this book. The writing is beautifully wrought--amazing for anyone but especially someone who's first language was not English. What an incredible debut novel. It is vivid like nobody's business. There is such authenticity to it that sometimes it feels like memoir (and at times perhaps it was a bit. Kwok did experience some of the same things when she moved to NYC from China.) I was completely transported. I cried and laughed, mourned and rejoiced along with Kim. The way Kwok deals with Kim's fragmented understanding of English (at first) is so well done that it brought back my own experience learning French. I'm in awe of Kwok's writing. Awe, I tell you.

My Rating:****1/2 out of 5, It was almost a 5, but there were a few things that held it back. Still a fabulous read.

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, for some mild language, some incidental drug use, and a not over done sex scene. This is a book intended for adults, but I think most older teens would be fine reading it.

17 comments:

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks for the review. I think I may have been the one who requested it. Cross cultural stories are of interest to me because of my own experiences, and because I think there may be a book or two lurking inside me on these themes.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I've seen this book in the store and I've thought about picking it up. I'm glad to hear you liked it. I'll add it to the pile next time :)

Jean said...

Came across your review. Thanks so much for such a thoughtful post! I've posted it on my Facebook fan page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jean-Kwok/213583280524

Best,
Jean

lotusgirl said...

Yat-Yee, Yes. It was you. I meant to put that at the beginning. I'll go back and add that with a link.

Sherri, It's definitely a great read. I hope you enjoy it.

Jean, Wow. I feel honored that you stopped by. What a wonderful novel you've created. These characters are staying with me. I think they'll be with me a long time.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hi, Lotusgirl!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

beth said...

Lois, This book sounds right up my alley! Thanks for the review--I'd not heard of it before.

Jackee said...

Great review, Lois! I've heard a lot of good things about this book, looks like I'll have to add it to my huge TBR pile.

Susan R. Mills said...

Thanks for the review. I've almost bought this book a couple of times, but picked something else instead. I'll have to grab it next time.

T. Anne said...

OK if it's vivid like nobodies business I think I need this book stat. Thanx Lois!

lotusgirl said...

Tristi, Thanks for stopping by.

Beth, Let me know what you think when you read it.

Jackee, I think you'll like it.

Susan, I love the cover. It can call to you from across a bookstore.

T. Anne, Stat, girl. I mean it.

Carolyn V. said...

Great review! I love know what's in a book before I buy it so I know if I'll like it!

lotusgirl said...

Carolyn, Me too. Glad I could help.

Alyssa said...

You really should read Toni Morrison. I know a lot of people who have intentionally not read her because of all the Oprah endorsements of the books. They're actually fantastic, though. They're definitely more difficult reads, but so good.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Thanks for the review! I'm always looking for reviews of books that are outside of my usual reading genre. I'll have to check it out!

Elaine AM Smith said...

This sounds different. If it made you laugh, cry, rejoice and mourn then I need it.

Dayana Stockdale said...

Awesome! I love books that cross cultural boundaries. It is on my TBR list, so thank you!

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

Sounds right up my alley! I'll put on my TBR list!