Who doesn’t remember feeling out of place in middle school? Physically we were awkward, socially fickle and emotionally immature. Imagine being a new immigrant attending an inner city middle school? That’s where Girl in Translation starts the story of Kim. In addition to losing her father and moving with her mother from China, Kim’s Aunt places the girl and her mother in a tenement style walk up with no heat and insists that both Kim and her mother work in her garment sweatshop in Chinatown.
It’s hard to look at a situation through different perspectives. My memories of middle school are mostly uncomfortable. The experience of Kim, an extraordinarily bright girl who had to learn English, try to make friends and work after school in order to pay off the family debt to her Aunt so that she can relocate her mother to a better apartment is an interesting perspective. Suffice to say, I worried about making friends and doing well in school – but it was all in my native language.
Whenever my children complain that something is “not fair”, I respond with the following:
“You are right, life isn’t fair. And you are so lucky that life is not fair because you scored.”
In the midst of adolescent angst, it’s crucial to find some perspective such as the story of Kim. Or true stories like the boy I met when I was 12 who moved from Russia to Brooklyn a few years prior. Devoid of English and money, he and his parents made a new life. We’re still pen pals almost 30 years later – and I hope my children have the opportunity to meet people that give them perspective on their challenges. And if we don’t meet someone like I did, perhaps they’ll read Girl in Translation.
This is an original SV Moms Post. Girl in Translation was provided free of charge as part of the SV Moms Book Group without any obligation to review.