February 21, 2014

Girl in Translation

Girl_highres.jpgGirl in Translation

Jean Kwok

Riverhead, 2011


Jean Kwok, MFA ’97, is one the most instantly successful graduates of Columbia University’s Writing Program.  Her debut novel, Girl in Translation was published by Riverhead Books in 2010 and became a New York Times bestseller.  It has been published in seventeen countries and translated into fifteen languages.  Ms Kwok was the guest of the Columbia Fiction Foundry on April 25, 2013.  A podcast of that session is available elsewhere on this site.

Jean_Kwok.jpgPowerful, Compelling, Almost True

Amazon.com Review by Ralph White

Ms. Kwok is quick to point out that her book is a novel, not a memoir.  But you write what you know and this author knows hardship.  She also knows love.  Girl in Translation is a heartrending story of a newly immigrated "mother and cub" eking out a subsistence amid unimaginable suffering.  The only hope which the two of them have to escape the gravitational pull of poverty is her prowess as a student. While her exceptionalism, apparent at an early age, provides hope, it also attracts an envy as destructive as poverty itself.  On the brink of escape from existential deprivation she falls in love.  Ms. Kwok portrays this love poignantly, yet it becomes clear that love is but one more malevolent obstacle.  Girl in Translation is a magnificent book and though it is fiction the world it describes is decidedly not.