Hope for My Son

I read Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok as a part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group Book Club. This post is inspired by this book.

Eleven-year-old Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to New York with visions of the Statue of Liberty and Times Square.  Instead, they wind up living in a condemned apartment with roaches and rats.  Her mother works in a sweatshop, with Kimberly having to help her after school just so the work given to her mother could get done.

Although the semi-autobiographical novel is told from Kimberly’s point of view, I found myself identifying strongly with her mother.  “Ma” was a music teacher in Hong Kong in a school where her husband was the school principal.  They lived a life that was considered to be a good one but Kimberly’s father died when she was three-years-old.

When I was pregnant with Tyler, my husband and I had the whole world.  We were both working, had a large savings, and were debt-free.  There were no money worries when we were preparing for Tyler’s birth.  My being laid off while I was on maternity leave turned into an unexpected opportunity as I accepted a position in 2007 that paid a lot more than my previous one.

I had been chronically ill with Rheumatoid Arthritis since 2003 but was able to work, even though there were some difficult times.  But in 2008 when I was diagnosed with Lupus, working just became too much for me and I had to quit.

Like “Ma”, my dreams and desires for my son are still there of course, but a lot more unreachable.  My worries about money are ever-present and the financial assistance I expected to provide for my son for college is now unimaginable.

As with Kimberly there will be a lot of pressure on Tyler to do as well as he can.  A lot will fall on him for him to make his way in life.

And I, like “Ma” will keep going as best as I can, and hoping that my best will be enough for my child to succeed.


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  1. I’m so touched by your post and glad that my novel resonated with you. I identified strongly with Ma as well, and you must be a wonderful mother yourself. I think that for Tyler, your love and faith in him will mean more than you can ever know.

    Jean Kwok

  2. It is so interesting to me how all the different book clubbers are relating to something different in the book! I accessed the book through the character of Annette; I didn’t give Ma much thought — although of course, I should have! She is a truly inspiring character.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..An alternate reality =-.

  3. Like Emily, I didn’t give Ma much thought. She annoyed me more than anything because I didn’t identify–I so wanted her to stand up for herself, to go to Annette’s house or a school or a music shop and offer to teach music in America.

    I knew that Ma did what she did for her daughter and I recognized the dedication and love she offered her — she gave her her life.

    Reading your response, I recognize more of Ma’s concerns and hear her voice a bit more. Thank you.

  4. Pingback: DC Metro Moms » Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok: A SV Moms Group Book Club