Jean Kwok

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Jean Kwok
Born Hong Kong
Occupation novelist
Period current
Genre Novel
Notable works Girl in Translation

Jean Kwok is a contemporary Chinese American writer and the author of the national bestseller Girl in Translation.


Jean Kwok was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Brooklyn, New York when she was five years old. While living in a roach-infested apartment without central heating, she worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood.[1] She was accepted to Hunter College High School, a public secondary school for intellectually gifted students. Upon graduation, she won early admission to Harvard College, where she worked as many as four jobs at a time, and received a BA in English with honors, before going on to earn her MFA in fiction at Columbia University.[2] She then moved to the Netherlands and worked for Leiden University, teaching English and as a Dutch-English translator. She speaks English, Chinese, Dutch and studied Latin.[3] She lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two sons, and now writes full-time.


Kwok's debut novel Girl in Translation was published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin, in May 2010 and became a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in 17 countries and translated into 15 languages. Kwok drew upon her personal experience to write this novel about an exceptionally bright young girl who leads a double life in an exclusive private school and a Chinatown sweatshop. Author Min Jin Lee compared the novel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.[4] Nicole Tsong in the Seattle Times commented on Kwok's innovative use of language that allows readers to experience the linguistic barriers for themselves: "Kwok uses the potent combination of... halting English and a sophisticated internal narration about her new life to tell [the heroine's] story."[5] Hannah Lee in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice noted that Girl in Translation was "as accurate to my childhood and upbringing in the world of New York's garment factories as a novel can be."[6] Girl in Translation was featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others.[7][8] A Dutch VPRO television documentary on Kwok's life and book was broadcast on May 6, 2012 in the Netherlands.[9]

Honors and awards[edit]



  • Girl in Translation (2010)
  • Mambo in Chinatown (2014)

Short stories[edit]


  • "Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds" (2000)
  • "A Translation of Schrijvende Vrouw" (2000)



  • Elements of Literature (2007)
  • The NuyorAsian Anthology (1999)


  1. ^ "Jean Kwok" Contemporary Authors, Gale Cengage, 2011.
  2. ^ "Jean Kwok" New York, NY: Penguin Speakers Bureau. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
  3. ^ "Jean Kwok and the Girl in Translation" by Amanda Cardo, Sampsonia Way, April 27, 2011.
  4. ^ "Girl in Translation", Princeton Book Review. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
  5. ^ "'Girl in Translation':Debut Novel is an Immigrant's Tale" by Nicole Tsong, Seattle Times, May 1, 2010.
  6. ^ "Reflections on Labor Unions since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire" by Hannah Lee, Philadelphia Jewish Voice, March 29, 2011.
  7. ^ "Girl in Translation", Liberty Bay Books. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
  8. ^ "News & Reviews", Jean Kwok Official Website. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
  9. ^ "Media", Jean Kwok Official Website. Last accessed May 31, 2012.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]