Girl in Translation

Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, Girl in Translation is an inspiring debut about a young immigrant in America, a smart girl who, living a double life between school and sweatshop, understands that her family’s future is in her hands.

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—the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, 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 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 a 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.


“Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation speaks eloquently.  Searing debut novel... poignant.” 
USA Today  

"Kwok drops you right inside Kimberly's head, adding Chinese idioms to crisp dialogue. And the book's lesson--that every choice comes at the expense of something else--hits home in every language." 
People Magazine, 3.5 out of 4 stars 
"Consistently compelling." 
Entertainment Weekly (review)

“Dazzling fiction debut.”
Marie Claire

"Part fairy tale, part autobiography... buoyant."
O, The Oprah Magazine

“People Are Talking About: Girl in Translation, the astonishing—and semi-autobiographical—tale of a girl from Hong Kong who, at eleven, shoulders the weight of her mother’s American Dream, from Chinatown sweatshop all the way to the Ivy League.”

"Kimberly Chang, the girl in the title of Jean Kwok’s first novel, comes to New York from Hong Kong in the early 1980s with her mother, chasing a better life. Ms. Kwok, herself an immigrant, renders Kimberly’s confusion seemingly from the inside." 
New York Times

 “Books We Can't Wait To Read This Summer: Girl in Translation.  Fresh and new.”
Entertainment Weekly

"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.... irresistible power."
The Independent

"Five Books to Watch for: Girl in Translation"

“Warm and affecting… a compelling pleasure… manages that rare fictional feat of shifting forever the angle from which you look at the world.”
— The Daily Mail

"Kwok thoughtfully pens a tale of the desperation and cruelty often faced by newcomers"
— Bustle

"A sensitively handled rites-of-passage account . . . has the unmistakable ring of authenticity"   

“Superbly written and observed.”
— Woman and Home

“In this evocative debut, Kwok’s quiet narrative voice steals up on you and captures your heart.”
— Irish Examiner

“Amazing… an incredibly honest and powerful story, written with unflinching directness.”
— Easy Living 

— She Magazine

 “Infused with optimism and a can-do spirit.”
— Financial Times

 “Compelling… an unforgettable story”
— Global Times

"Potent… a fresh, compelling take on the American success story.”
Seattle Times

"There is a brand new author out there that we should all be paying attention to. Her name is Jean Kwok. Kwok is a new novelist full of potential for greatness."
The Naples Daily News 

“Simple, searing, richly detailed prose… hilarious and wrenching. Immigrants, new and old, will find much to savor here, from the drama of family secrets to the confusing coming-of-age.”

 “A resolute yet naïve Chinese girl confronts poverty and culture shock with equal zeal when she and her mother immigrate to Brooklyn in Kwok's affecting coming-of-age debut… more than just another immigrant story.”
Publishers Weekly

 “Kwok adeptly captures the hardships of the immigrant experience and the strength of the human spirit to survive and even excel despite the odds.  Reminiscent of An Na's award-winning work for younger readers, A Step from Heaven, this work will appeal to both adults and teens.”
Library Journal

"Clear, serene debut novel."
— NRC Handelsblad
"A stunningly clear and heartwarming story."
— NRC Next
"A gorgeous book!"
— Margriet
"A compelling novel about disappointment, hidden love and poverty."
— Elegance
***** (five stars)
— De Telegraaf

"A classic and moving immigration story."
— Red
"Sumptuous novel."
— Libelle
 "A gorgeous, beautifully written, moving story that immediately touches you."
— Nouveau
"Impressive, heartbreaking debut novel."
— Het Belang van Limburg
"With her clear writing style, Kwok brings a world to life that amazes the reader."
— Reformatorisch Dagblad

“In this moving story of hardship and triumph, a woman must live a double life as a scholar and a sweatshop worker after she emigrates from Hong Kong to America with her mother.”
— San Francisco Chronicle

“Mesmerizing… blessed with a vivid central character and tremendous narrative drive.”
— Columbia Magazine

“A moving story filled with lively and believable characters. It is an extremely well told story with wonderful syntax, vivid descriptions, and subtlety placed humor.”

"Jean Kwok captures the reader's mind. The themes are universal, as proven by the novel's success around the world. While reading this book, time stands still and the world expands - just as it should when reading good literature."
— KirjalN 

"Kimberly is such an unforgettable narrator that you can’t put the book down. “Girl In Translation” contrasts sacrifice and accomplishment and shows us a world that is both beautiful and tragic."
Education Extra: Book Picks, The Register-Guard 

“It is impossible not to fall under the spell of Girl in Translation’s tough, plucky narrator as she struggles to make a place for herself in America. Kwok is a natural storyteller who eloquently captures the difficulty of living in two worlds, and the quiet sadness of never feeling quite at home in either. This is an altogether captivating debut shot through with moments of humor and grace.”
—Julie Otsuka, author of When the Emperor Was Divine

Girl in Translation took me completely by surprise: I started it at midnight, thinking I would read a few pages, and found myself, hours later, completely absorbed in the story. With Kimberly Chang, Jean Kwok has succeeded in creating an unforgettable narrator—she's smart, fearless, funny, and a great observer of the world around her. This is an incredibly impressive debut."
—Vendela Vida, co-editor of The Believer and author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

“A moving coming of age story, reminiscent of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The possibility of Kimberly Chang’s extraordinary struggle and achievement is what makes America a great nation—generous, forgiving and full of hope. Kwok perfectly captures the voice and perspective of a young immigrant, and the result is a powerful work about love, sacrifice and faith.”
—Min Jin Lee, author of the bestselling Free Food for Millionaires

“Utterly compelling, grabs you from the first page to the last. It’s about people uprooted, taken advantage of, and triumphing in a foreign land. It’s a story about the American dream which serves to remind us not to take lightly what we have. The story of Kimberly Chang is not one you will soon forget. This is a book you will press into a friend’s hand and urge them to read. I urge you to read it!”
—Patricia Wood, author of Lottery

"In Kimberly Chang, Jean Kwok has created a gentle and unassuming character.  But Kimberly is also very clever, and as she struggles to escape the brutal trap of poverty she proves indomitable.  With her keen intelligence and her reservoir of compassion, she’s irresistibly admirable, as is the whole of this gripping, luminous novel."
—Joanna Scott, author of Follow Me

“A journey into a world that would otherwise be veiled, Girl in Translation contrasts both sacrifice and accomplishment in the most satisfying of ways. Kwok’s vibrant prose makes us live Kimberly’s life almost as if it were our own.”
—Brunonia Barry, author of the bestselling The Lace Reader

“I love how this book allowed me to see my own country, with all its cruelty and kindness, from a perspective so different from my own. I love how it invited me into the heart and mind of Kimberly Chang, whose hard choices will resonate with anyone who has sacrificed for a dream. Powerful storytelling kept me turning the pages quickly, but Kimberly’s voice – so smart and clear - will stay with me for a long time.”
—Laura Moriarty, author of The Center of Everything 

"Kwok writes with a stripped down elegance that puts you right next to her in the freezing apartment, but still gives you a sense of the inherent dignity of both the protagonist and her mother - and that dignity, combined with grim reality, is what really made the book leap out of my hands. It's been a long time since I read anything with a character I wanted to succeed this badly. Which brings us to the ending: pretty much the definition of an earned happy ending, with just the amount of bittersweet regret to make the whole thing go down smooth."
—Drew Williams, Little Professor Bookstore

"This is a tale simply told, but the narrator speaks with unvarnished authenticity of the experience of immigration. Kimberly and her mother, an accomplished musician, come from Hong Kong to Brooklyn with the aid of her mother's sister. Here, in this land of bounty and opportunity, they are ruthlessly exploited from day one: paying rent for an apartment with no heat and missing windows, working in a sweatshop, struggling with the language barrier. Young Kim observes without passing judgment, and through her eyes we witness not only the sting of injustice, but the simple joy she takes in all that is new and different. A quietly powerful book. "
—Jennie Turner-Collins, Joseph Beth Booksellers

"I absolutely LOVED Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. I was so impressed by the voice of young Kimberly, who narrates their story in crystal clear prose and a tenderness and naivety that's almost charming. I also loved the fact that this will make a perfect young adult crossover, I can't imagine any teen being able to put down this wonderful, precious story. I even experienced that same sort of epiphany while reading it that I did with The Help: THIS IS IT! This is the next great book!"
—Linda Grana, Lafayette Books

"Get comfortable before you open this book because you might not want to get up until you finish it. Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate to New York City and end up living in squalor in an unheated abandoned building while the mother works in a sweatshop. Eleven year old Kimberly realizes her brains are the only chance she and her mother have of getting out of the situation they find themselves and begins to make decisions that affect the rest of their lives."
—Beth Carpenter, Country Bookshop in Southern Pines

"...The vivid narrative had me RIGHT THERE in the sweatshops, the high school, the sordid short, very immersed in the story. Ms Kwok's writing delivers that je ne sais quoi that is invaluable to a good novel. Kwok manages to convey feelings, for instance, about relationships with contemporaries, in such a way that you can identify because you've been there yourself during the teen years! The uncertainty with which Kim approaches the love relationship also resonates. And, the ending isn't saccharine, which I always appreciate."
—Lorayne Burns, Librarian

"This is a lovely debut novel that will move, surprise and delight the reader. In Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok has given us a previously untold immigrant story – about a brilliant young girl who excels at school, works nights in a New York City sweatshop, and lives with her mother in an abandoned apartment with no heat. That elements of the story are based on Kwok’s own life in 1970s America makes Kwok’s accomplished first novel all the more remarkable."
—Chris Higashi, Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA

"The American experience often began at Ellis Island or Angel Island and was later forged by deprivation and hardship. As Kimberly Chang and her mother attempt to navigate an alien society, culture and language they will remind people of the stories of their parents and grandparents. To read this novel is to read a universal description of American immigration and development."
—Bill Cusumano, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI

"With this book's publication, there is no doubt that Kwok will be noticed as a major American writer."
— Ghost Word

"Divine prose. Kwok's style keeps you reading and unwilling to set her book down for even a moment. It is the type of book you gobble up in one sitting leaving you hungry for her next book."
”I read this novel in a quick page flipping all-nighter... Jean Kwok delivers a powerfully told story that holds nothing back and gives everything expected, and more. Promise of much success from this new author.” 
— The Burton Review

"I've never been so excited for a book to come out, aside from the Harry Potter series."
— Luxe, Calme en Volupté

"It was heartbreaking to read the first several chapters and know without a doubt these things happen to immigrants. The author was incredibly talented in creating the dialogue of the characters. It was so pitch perfect I truly felt I was in China Town in New York City."
— A Novel Source

"Kwok's strength as a writer shines through in her presentation of language, whether it be Kimberly's often amusing misunderstandings of English words or Kwok's careful definition of odd Chinese phrases (presented in English, but understood to be communicated in Cantonese).  A fascinating and heartbreaking tale."
— Entomology of a Bookworm

"Jean Kwok is a new novelist to watch. I received an advance of her first novel and loved it.  Girl in Translation is awesome."
— Maurice on Books

"It is amazing to think of sweatshops & child labor in modern America but it exists.   The author uses creative spelling to allow us to hear what Kimberly hears and sense the confusion that she experiences in her new world.  I highly recommend this book."
— Dogberry Pages

"I saw glimmers of Betty Smith's, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Lisa See's books - both authors' work in which I have enjoyed. I'm definitely adding Jean Kwok to my "Waiting for More" list of authors."
— Thoughts of Joy

"This is a coming of age story with several twists.   This is a story of society.  It is a love story.  It is a story of perseverance.  I suspect Miss Kwok knows of what she writes. She emigrated from Hong Kong and worked at a clothing factory herself. Kwok has certainly gotten into the head of Kimberley and made her exceptionally real."
— The Shelf Stalker

"Kwok was an immigrant herself, and this shows in the authenticity of the story.  I was riveted... I sped through this book in two days because I couldn’t put it down.  Make sure to check this one out."
— Booklishly Fabulous