“There's a Chinese saying that the fates are winds that blow through our lives from every angle, urging us along the paths of time. Those who are strong-willed may fight the storm and possibly choose their own road, while the weak must go where they are blown. I say I have not been so much pushed by winds as pulled forward by the force of my decisions.”
If you are an immigrant who came to United States - read this book.
If you are a person who thinks of migrating to United States - read this book.
If you are a person who lived in United States your whole life - read this book.
This book will help you see the things you knew of, but ignored for so long, it will knock off the pink glasses you view the world through right off your head, and then hit you with them for good measure too.
My family moved to United States about 10 years ago, and while my experience was thankfully nothing like hers, some things sang true anyway. It's that line between the illusion and reality that many people try to blur out, but it stands out big time for those who experienced it firsthand.
I'm going to be honest though- I feel betrayed by this book. I loved it so much, adored it even all the way through, but then the ending happened and literally ruined everything for me. I was so sure that this was a 5 star read - and in some sense it still is - there's just too much important and amazing stuff in it to ignore, but personally I didn't like how some things were handled in the end.
“We would be allowed to work and not cause any trouble for her, but she didn't want us to be any more successful than she was”
I usually don't have good luck with coming of age novels - I like them to some extend, but then there's always something that ruins the whole experience for me. But let's start with the good stuff first.
I loved that Kwok wasn't holding her punches when it came to ruining the image of "the American dream". For some reason, it's an image that is embedded into the minds of all of those who migrate to United States. Better future, better jobs, better housing ect. When it comes to this story - it was nothing like that.
Due to some poor family relations Kim and her mother end up in a dead end job, which was also illegal and basically a slave exploitation, but since they don't know better - that's all they've got. Their place is unlivable, to the point to where I honestly think it would have been smarter for them to be homeless than stay in that "apartment", but stay they did. Despite coming to America and wanting to experience it, they were stuck for years and years on end in Chinatown, without barely experiencing anything else. Mostly due to not having any money, but also due to her mother's very traditional and limited views on the other cultures.
The Girl in Transition showed a very ugly, but very true side of mass production of clothing - and because of that I will never again set foot into a store that manufactures its products in sweat shops. Yes, sweat shops still exist and not only in China, India or Bangladesh, in the United States too. To name a few companies that still exploit people for 2$ an hour - Forever21, H&M, Zara, Victoria's Secret, Aldo, Banana Republic and sadly, many many more (google it, and you will see).
I knew this before, but for some reason reading it on paper made it sound so much more real.
It's hard to believe that conditions in which Kim and her mother had to live still exist to this day, it definitely sounds like something from a movie, but they definitely do. Especially in big cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and such. You wouldn't believe the conditions people have to live in, because it's easier to pretend that it's just fiction, that real life just can't be that cruel.
some spoilers ahead
Now, this is just my personal preference and my personal view but I really hated the way a possibility of an abortion was handled. Sure, many people are pro-choice, and that's their choice, but it's the nonchalant way in which it was handled that angered me. It was treated as something that just needed to be rid of, as if the baby was just a disease or a case of sniffles that needed to be removed because somebody doesn't feel like they want to deal with it. Also, I had a very hard time believing that a mother who was portrayed as religious and old fashioned as Kim's just went along with it like it was no big deal. They were buddhist for crying out loud, it just wasn't in character at all and felt like a plot twist that was trying to be shocking, but was just half assed, and in bad taste.
Also, I really hated the way Kim handled Matt at the end as well. She robbed him of his child and she robbed the child as well ,by never telling the father. Also, in the end the child was supposedly 12 years old and he never asked where his father was? Unrealistic once again, it honestly felt like the ending was just a weird scramble of the most cliche endings possible - it just didn't go with the tone of the novel at all.
Kim's mother wasn't a character I had any sympathy for. I know I should have, but she was just way too spineless for me. She never did anything to leave the horrible place, in a way she gave everything to the hands of her horrid sister and just went with it, meanwhile burdening her daughter with everything else. Sure, she worked hard, but something just working harder is not the best choice. If you are at a horrible place, no matter how hard you work - it will still be a horrible place. It was a very sad thing to see how she was not only stuck at a horrible place physically, but mentally she wasn't able to adapt or leave her views and prejudices behind. In the end it was Kim who got them out of there, and her mother just went with it. Despite many decisions of Kim's that I disliked, my heart ached for her when she wished to be just the child, and not the caretaker of her family, because her mother, on some level, refused to adapt, to try and change anything at all.
Would I still recommend this book? Absolutely! I hated the direction the plot took, but I absolutely loved everything else. This book has a lot to offer and the writing was very enjoyable as well.