A straightforward and pleasant, if somewhat predictable narrative, marred in part by an ending that too blatantly tugs at...

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GIRL IN TRANSLATION

An iteration of a quintessential American myth—immigrants come to America and experience economic exploitation and the seamy side of urban life, but education and pluck ultimately lead to success.

Twelve-year-old Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong and feel lucky to get out before the transfer to the Chinese. Because Mrs. Chang’s older sister owns a garment factory in Brooklyn, she offers Kimberly’s mother—and even Kimberly—a “good job” bagging skirts as well as a place to live in a nearby apartment. Of course, both of these “gifts” turn out to be exploitative, for to make ends meet Mrs. Chang winds up working 12-hour–plus days in the factory. Kimberly joins her after school hours in this hot and exhausting labor, and the apartment is teeming with roaches. In addition, the start to Kimberly’s sixth-grade year is far from prepossessing, for she’s shy and speaks almost no English, but she turns out to be a whiz at math and science. The following year she earns a scholarship to a prestigious private school. Her academic gifts are so far beyond those of her fellow students that eventually she’s given a special oral exam to make sure she’s not cheating. (She’s not.) Playing out against the background of Kimberly’s fairly predictable school success (she winds up going to Yale on full scholarship and then to Harvard medical school) are the stages of her development, which include interactions with Matt, her hunky Chinese-American boyfriend, who works at the factory, drops out of school and wants to provide for her; Curt, her hunky Anglo boyfriend, who’s dumb but sweet; and Annette, her loyal friend from the time they’re in sixth grade. Throughout the stress of adolescence, Kimberly must also negotiate the tension between her mother’s embarrassing old-world ways and the allurement of American culture.

A straightforward and pleasant, if somewhat predictable narrative, marred in part by an ending that too blatantly tugs at the heartstrings.

Pub Date: May 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59448-756-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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