Girl In Translation, me in shock

I zipped through Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation over a weekend, my mouth agape at the narrator’s journey. It was one of those stories that I wanted to tell myself did not and could not happen, at least not now, at least not in my city. I wish it were that simple.

Kimberly Chang, the narrator immigrates to United States and juggles private school during the day and helping her mother in a sweatshop in the evening, living two diametrically opposed lives, an outsider in both.

I thought about my grandfather emigrating from Eastern Europe when he was a teenager. My dad tells the story of the time my grandfather was a young boy, coming home from buying bread sees his friend’s home bombed. He ran home only to have his mother ask, “where is the bread?” and send him out again. While my life could be considered privileged by many (okay most), I’ve still had my share of struggles which dwarf in comparison to Kimberly Chang’s or my grandfather’s for that matter.

My father has gone through an incredibly difficult financial period when he was afraid to answer the door lest it be a representative from the bank serving him foreclosure papers. We had lived in the “maid quarters” of this massive house that my dad went broke building. A divorce had wiped out his bank account leaving little money to complete the construction.

After selling the house, my father thought it best for me to go to boarding school so he sent me to a place where I felt like one of a handful of students NOT on scholarship. (The school had declined to offer any financial aid because my father was in real estate and his vacant buildings were considered assets that he could sell to fund my education.)

I too felt like I was straddling different worlds to my friends at boarding school who eagerly raided the goodwill pile of clothes and those from my hometown who did not embrace me after the departure.

Despite my struggles, I never felt that I was uniquely responsible for my mom (that would come years later) or that my life was completely hopeless – which I do think I would have had I been in the narrator’s position. Just as the adage promises, I would not want to trade my woes for another’s, especially Kimberly Chang’s of Girl in Translation.


One Response to “Girl In Translation, me in shock”

  1. April Says:

    The book was relatable and not all at the same time. Brilliant at helping us all gain a little perspective, I thought.

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