Girl in Translation, By Jean Kwok

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The Independent Culture

Kimberly Chang, the heroine of Jean Kwok's debut novel, exchanges Hong Kong for New York in the early 1980s. While Kimberly's mother earns two cents an hour in a sweatshop, her 11-year-old daughter faces the challenge of school: neither speaks English. Kimberly also has the even more difficult business of hiding her extreme poverty from her new friends.

Inspired by her own first hand experience of immigration, Kwok writes with quiet passion about the strange dichotomy of growing up surrounded by the glitz of New York, while being barely able to afford to eat.

Engagingly narrated in the first person, Kwok's story rests not so much on the distinction of her prose, but in the irresistible power of the immigrant's tale of starting over.

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