Tag Archives: multicultural

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (Riverhead, April 29, 2010), 304 pages

Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn. They don’t speak English and they’re beholden to the relatives that helped them make the journey. Kimberly is a very intelligent girl — math and science come easiest in her new environment. Her mother, in Hong Kong, was an accomplished musician. Their only ticket out of their unforeseen but deplorable situation is Kimberly’s education.

This multicultural, coming-of-age story is set in New York City. Chinatown, sweatshop. The juxtaposition of Kimberly Chang’s school world and her work/home world is stark, saddening. I don’t always like coming-of-age stories, but this one, with its many other factors in its favor, is a winner.

Girl in Translation is absorbing, I was caught up in the story and the world before the first chapter ended. It’s delightful and painful and vivid.

I love the characters, I love the story, I love the writing. Such a great book!

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how Kwok helps the reader understand, in little bits, what it’s like to feel illiterate by representing phonetically other speakers’ poorly enunciated words. For example, on page 24 [of an uncorrected proof], when Kimberly arrives at her school for the first time:

We showed her the letter from the school. “Go downda hall, two fights up, classroom’s firsdur left,” she said, pointing.

I love this!

Oh, this is just a great book. I know I’m gushing, but I don’t feel like I’m going too far; this book deserves gushing. Read an excerpt of Girl in Translation.

About the author
Jean Kwok (Kwok’s blog, @JeanKwok) was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Brooklyn as a child. She received her bachelor’s from Harvard and completed an MFA in fiction at Columbia. After working as an English teacher and Dutch-English translator at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Kwok now writes full-time.

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I received this book from the publisher.


31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan (Harper, March 30, 2010), 352 pages

31 Bond Street opens in 1857 New York City. Wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell is found brutally murdered, in his own home. Emma Cunningham, the widowed mother of two teenage daughters, is accused of the murder, but not before she’s trapped inside her home for weeks by officials with not-so-secret political ambitions. Henry Clinton puts his reputation and practice on the line to defend her.

Everything seemed aligned for me to absolutely love this book. A murder mystery, set in a historical framework, with racial, gender and socioeconomic issues in the fore. It touches on the impact of both the press and the law on peoples’ lives. What could be better?

The novel is a fictional account of an (apparently famous) actual murder trial, which is fun. I enjoyed the illustrations and snippets from newspapers that opened some chapters. Interestingly, my favorite characters were minor players.

I was a bit annoyed at how the narrative went back and forth in time. I had trouble keeping track of the chronology at times, although usually a nonlinear narrative isn’t a problem for me. It was incredibly slow getting around to the information that did, eventually, make me care deeply about this book. Still these are minor issues.

I found the setting absolutely engrossing, vividly drawn and fascinating. I love when that happens!

Bottom line: 31 Bond Street didn’t quite wow me, but I’ll definitely be looking forward to more from Horan. This was a fun, enjoyable read, a great story.

Read an excerpt.

There’s been talk of a movie based on the book — I think it would make a terrific film — and anyone who has read the book can enter the “Cast the Movie” Contest; the prize is handmade truffles from Bond Street Chocolates as well as a signed first edition of the book. The contest is open internationally; it closes August 31, 2010.

About the author
Ellen Horan previously worked as a freelance photo editor for magazines and books in New York City. She has a background in painting and visual art. 31 Bond Street is her first novel.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan.

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Devourer of Books
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I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (Delacorte Press, 2009), 240 pages

In the 1970s India, when Dad loses his engineering job and goes to the United States in search of a brighter future, Mom takes Asha and her sister Reet to her uncle’s house in Calcutta. Seventeen-year-old Reet soon begins attracting suitors, and her uncle begins looking for a good match. Asha bristles under the constraints of this more conservative environment and struggles to keep the promise she made to her father while still trying to not give up on her dreams.

An absorbing, quick read. A great story. I loved it, and I can’t wait to read more of Perkins’ work. In some ways this reminded me of A Disobedient Girl, although that feels like a very strange comparison. On the surface, the main likenesses are: Asia setting, teenage protagonist. It’s more than that, though.

I loved the setting. I hurt and rejoiced and hoped along with Asha. I was caught up in this lovely, engrossing tale. I loved the strong women (and how strength looked different depending on the situation).

I’d place Secret Keeper in the same category as Beth Kephart’s books — real, down-to-earth characters struggling through deep things, conveyed through great writing. An excellent book, I have no complaints.

Perkins’ latest book, Bamboo People, was released July 1, 2010. I can hardly wait to get my hands on it!

About the author
Mitali Perkins (@mitaliperkins) was born in India and immigrated to the States with her parents and two sisters when she was seven. Perkins is the author of several books; she lives in Massachusetts.

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I won this book in a Twitter giveaway.