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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