Tales of an immigrant coming to America and struggling to succeed are abundant, but Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok tells the story of Kim and her Ma as they immigrate to New York City, in the hopes of the American Dream. Kwok tells Kim's story in chapters, made of short cinematic prose that mimic snapshots of a life, and make it easy to get engrossed in the story of Kim and her Ma. Brought over by her Aunt Paula, Kim and her Ma move into a roach-infested apartment, with broken windows, and no heat. Put to work in a factory that pays "per piece," Kim realizes that in order move out the soon-to-be-condemned building she must do well in school. The novel is told through Kim's perspective, and focuses mostly on her experience at school, with teachers who don't understand her Chinese heritage or that she comprehends very little English. As Kim's English improves she advances in school, scoring very high on her standardized tests, much to Aunt Paula's dismay and envy. In addition to Kim's studies, she must help her mother at the factory where she meets her friend Matt. As the two grow up together in the common setting of the factory, they become really close, with their friendship becoming one of the main centerpieces of the novel.
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