Girl in Translation

  • by Jean Kwok
  • Narrated by Grayce Wey
  • 9 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, an inspiring debut about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures.
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life--like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition--Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.
Through Kimberly's story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant--a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.


Audible Editor Reviews

In this touching and insightful debut novel from Jean Kwok, 11-year-old Kimberly Chang makes us proud to call her a fellow American. Grace Wey’s narration effortlessly carries the abrupt “scene changes” that are a natural part of the life of an immigrant child. Wey takes us from the grassy prep school where Kimberly spends her days to the loud, hot factory where she works every evening with her mother — fabric fibers sticking to her sweaty body, hours of homework ahead of her.
When Kimberly is in Chinatown, Kwok translates for us — but loosely enough to retain the vivid metaphors of the original language. When Matt, another Chinese boy who works at the factory, invites Kimberly and her mother for an outing to see the “Liberty Goddess”, Mrs. Chang says, “Now I wouldn’t want to be a lightbulb.” Kimberly explains, “Her joke, that she would be there as a chaperone — stopping the lovers from kissing because of her presence, like a lightbulb in a darkened room — made public my private hope: that Matt’s invitation might actually be a date.” The metaphor itself is so descriptive, and the fact that Kimberly has to translate even for us as listeners reminds us that this young woman gracefully leads a double life.
Much like Chinese characters, where the white space in between the brush strokes holds as much meaning as the bold, black lines, Wey’s precise delivery leaves room for Kimberly’s often unspoken, but deeply felt emotions. Kwok and Wey take us on a ride with Kimberly on Matt’s bike — we can feel the wind on her face and Matt’s strong back against her chest. But just as abruptly as we shift from Kimberly’s “white” world to her “Chinese” world, Wey’s voice betrays the tragic sound of Kimberly’s heart shutting off. Too much is at stake.
Girl in Translation is a stunning debut novel that will inspire respect and admiration for families who come to this country to start new lives — especially children. The first line of Kwok’s debut novel is meant to describe our heroine. “I was born with a talent.” But this line just as aptly describes the author who also came to this country as a child. Girl in Translation shows the promise of our great country — and just what many are willing to give up for it…even true love. —Sarah Evans Hogeboom


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

This is a keeper

I have never written a review before although I have listened to audiobooks for years. "Girl in Translation" should come with a warning - "Do not expect to get anything done once you start this book!" The reader was wonderful and I hope to hear more of her work. A reader can, of course, only be as good as the book and hopefully Jean Kwok will follow this with another of the same quality. My only disappointment was when I heard "12 years later" and realized there was only 33 minutes left in the book. This book is a great read!
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- Susan B. Johnson

Love the story, but not so much the narrator

Half way through the book and I'm very much enjoying the story. Jean Kwok is a vivid and descriptive story teller. Kudos to her. Can't wait to start commuting each day just to listen the story.

The narrator on the other hand...when she reads in plain English, she's terrific. But I simply cannot stand, nor understand, when she voices the characters in accents. Horrendous. The Chinese accents are monotone, robotic, broken and unauthentic. The non-Chinese characters seem to have unidentifiable accents too; not sure what kind of accents they are and why they mispronounce words. Unfortunately, the accents can be quite distracting, leaving the listener a bit confused. Without the accents, reader is great.

Looking forward to finishing the story.
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- Annie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-25-2010
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio