(New York, NY): On April 24, Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation, visited The NCC to speak with students who are currently reading her novel in Composition I, a semester-long course focused on the theme of immigration. The novel chronicles the immigration of a young girl, Kim, and her mother from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, New York, where they work in a factory. Moved while reading her student essays on the novel, Assistant Professor Lori Ungemah sent Jean Kwok a message on Facebook. Much to her surprise, the author immediately responded, mentioning she would be traveling to New York on business and asked if she could speak to the students.
Kwok captivated the students by discussing her own immigration experience from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, New York, and the similarities and differences between herself and the young character in the novel. She also read passages from the novel, noting why she included them and what ideas she hoped readers might take away. Additionally, she shared her experiences as an author and a writer and, with a great sense of humor, admitted that she, too, procrastinates. Her talk concluded with a motivational message about success, the importance of failure and the need to work hard.
About Girl In Translation
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 Girl in Translation. Ah-Kim Chang, or Kimberly as she is known in the U.S., had been a promising student in Hong Kong when her father died. Now she and her mother are indebted to Kimberly’s Aunt Paula, who funded their trip from Hong Kong. They dutifully work for her in a Chinatown clothing factory where they earn barely enough to live. Despite economic hardship and living in a condemned apartment that is without heat and full of roaches, Kimberly excels at school, perfects her English, and is eventually admitted to an elite, private high school. It is the portrayal of Kimberly’s relationship with her mother that makes this more than just another immigrant story.
About the Author
Jean Kwok emigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. She won early admission to Harvard, where she worked as many as four jobs at a time, and graduated with honors in English and American literature before going on to earn an MFA in fiction at Columbia. Her debut novel Girl in Translation (Riverhead, 2010) became a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in 15 countries and chosen as the winner of an American Library Association Alex Award, a John Gardner Fiction Book Award finalist, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, an Orange New Writers title, an Indie Next Pick, a Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award nominee and the winner of Best Cultural Book in Book Bloggers Appreciation Week 2010. It was featured in many publications, including the “New York Times,” “USA Today,” “Entertainment Weekly,” “Vogue” and “O, The Oprah Magazine.”