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Extended Audio Sample Girl in Translation Audiobook, by Jean Kwok Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.03 out of 54.03 out of 54.03 out of 54.03 out of 54.03 out of 5 4.03 (31 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jean Kwok Narrator: Grayce Wey Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2010 ISBN: 9781101155011
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Introducing a fresh, exciting new voice, an inspiring debut about a Chinese 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 American immigrant novel—a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation speaks eloquently.  Searing debut novel... poignant.  USA Today  
  • Potent… a fresh, compelling take on the American success story.  The Seattle Times
  • 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 
  • 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 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
  • Consistently compelling.  Entertainment Weekly 
  • Dazzling fiction debut.  Marie Claire 
  • Part fairy tale, part autobiography... buoyant.  O, The Oprah Magazine
  • 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.  Vogue
  • 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.  The New York Times
  • 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
  • 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
  • Infused with optimism and a can-do spirit. The Financial Times
  • Compelling… an unforgettable story The Global Times
  • 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.  Booklist
  • 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 
  • 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. The San Francisco Chronicle
  • 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 
  • “Part fairy tale, part autobiography…What puts this debut novel toward the top of the pile is its buoyant voice and its slightly subversive ending that suggests ‘happily ever after’ may have more to do with love of self and of family than with any old Prince Charming.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “At age 5, Kwok moved with her family from Hong Kong to a New York City slum…She has spun some of her experiences into this involving debut…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 any language.”

    People (3.5 stars)

  • “Writing in first-person from Kim’s point of view, Kwok cleverly employs phonetic spellings to illustrate her protagonist’s growing understanding of English and wide-eyed view of American teen culture. The author draws upon her own experience as a child laborer in New York, which adds a poignant layer to Girl in Translation.”

    USA Today

  • “The astonishing—and semi-autobiographical—tale of a girl from Hong Kong who, at age eleven, shoulders the weight of her mother’s American dream all the way from Chinatown sweatshop to the Ivy League.”

    Vogue

  • “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, New York Times bestselling author of The Chaperone

  • “Drawing on her own experiences as an immigrant from Hong Kong, Kwok adeptly captures the hardships of the immigrant experience and the strength of the human spirit to survive and even excel despite the odds.”

    Library Journal

  • “Jean Kwok takes two well-trod literary conceits—coming of age and coming to America—and renders them surprisingly fresh in her fast-moving, clean-prosed immigrants’ tale.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • Selected for the May 2010 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Nominated for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • Winner of the 2011 YALSA Alex Award

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ann | 2/18/2014

    " Wonderful, insightful, inspiring. An altogether good read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maria | 2/18/2014

    " Very good read. It was hard to put down. Utterly fascinating look into the life of a Chinese girl who has moved to America with her Mom and finds herself working in very poor conditions in a sweat shop by night, and going to a fancy prep school by day. The contrast is what makes the book really interesting. I loved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Devyn | 2/6/2014

    " I could not put it down. I was caught up in this book from the first paragraph to the last word. It was one of those...oh my, is it really 3 am and I just finished this book in one day? moments. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kimberly | 2/3/2014

    " Very inspirational story about a young immigrant's experience. This is not a "way back then" story - it's about coming to the U.S. in the 70s, and the work required just to survive. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca Mcgowin | 1/17/2014

    " This was a great read. It made me think about how others lead lives that are completely different than mine. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Demaris | 1/15/2014

    " This is an amazing story that helped me understand a little more of my husbands journey to this country as an immigrant from China. Kimberly was easy to identify with and her story is one that will stay with me for a very long time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandra | 1/14/2014

    " WOW! I felt like it was more of an autobiography. Well written and captivating! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Blue | 1/8/2014

    " A well-written, captivating story told from an immigrant's perspective. A definite must-read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Brooke | 1/6/2014

    " Interesting subject matter, but I felt like I was reading a book written by a 2nd grader. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Vanessa | 12/28/2013

    " I listened to this one via CD and enjoyed it. It was a new perspective on Chinese immigrants and I really liked the characters. The ending was slightly disappointing but overall i enjoyed it. A few swear words and a couple steamy scenes (I just fast forwarded them). "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kathryn Shipman | 12/25/2013

    " I would give this book a 2.5. It was really hard to get into and really didn't seem to have a plot. Just kind of boring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrea Robare | 12/9/2013

    " Very interesting perspective. Must have been a difficult transition coming to America "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Victoria | 4/27/2013

    " It brought me to tears. I loved it and thought of my own mother's struggles. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cheryl Cufari | 4/5/2013

    " The story reinforces what can be done with motivation, hard work, sacrifice, and determination. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Penn | 3/6/2013

    " Read this woman's bio before you read the book. Wow. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 2/25/2013

    " Listened to this book on tape. The reader was excellent, and the story was clear and touching. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nikifunaki | 2/6/2013

    " The story was compelling - a Chinese immigrant who works her way up from extreme poverty to Ivy League schools. However I thought the author wasn't descriptive enough and the characters were a bit one dimensional. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robin | 9/2/2012

    " Held my interest. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bette Crosby | 8/28/2012

    " Excellent. Jean Kwok did a wonderful job of consistently telling this story in an age appropriate voice. And they was an unexpected twist at the end that drove me back to reread the open pages. Very clever use of words. Both story & characters were extremely believable. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tamsin | 4/7/2012

    " 3.5 stars. I really enjoyed the story up until the very end when it got a bit too Hallmark movie-ish for my liking. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nora | 10/8/2011

    " Loved this book and finished it very quickly. I was rooting for the main character and enjoyed reading about the journey to make a better life for herself and her mother. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheila | 7/27/2011

    " I loved this book so much I had to read it twice. I seldom do that, so it will be kept in a special place on my bookshelves. Thank you, Jean Kwok. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca | 7/3/2011

    " Loved this compelling tale. Funny, charming, inspiring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doris | 5/22/2011

    " Eye-opening, the life of Chinese immigrants in New York City, the difficulties they face in regard to language, cultural barriers/challenges and one girl's determination to overcome. Great book! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colleen | 5/19/2011

    " A little sappy but very interesting look at the immigrant experience in modern day new york "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katy | 5/19/2011

    " Outstanding debut novel; bittersweet and real. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Smehta | 5/19/2011

    " Fascinating story about the hardline and determination of an immigrant Chinese girl in New York City, who works in a sweat factory and is a top student in the 1980s (I think). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carrie | 5/15/2011

    " Great book! It's a story about how a girl who immigrates to the US with her mother. They have very little money and struggle to make ends meet as her mom works in a sewing factory. She decides she is going to use her education as a way to escape the poverty. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kali | 5/15/2011

    " Wonderful-a quick read and compelling story. Gives a hard look at immigrant life in the US. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Suzanne | 5/13/2011

    " Oh, ugh. So predictable.
    I'd recommend Anzia Yezierska's 1925 classic The Bread Givers</> instead. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley | 5/12/2011

    " Wow. I'll leave it up to you to discover why. "

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About the Author
Author Jean Kwok

Jean Kwok was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Brooklyn as a young girl. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard and completed an MFA in fiction at Columbia. She worked as an English teacher and Dutch-English translator at Leiden University in the Netherlands before writing full-time. She has been published in Story Magazine and Prairie Schooner.

About the Narrator

Grayce Wey is an actress and screenwriter known best for Anna’s Eve, a horror film which she wrote, produced, and starred in.