|Notable works||Girl in Translation, Mambo in Chinatown|
Jean Kwok is a contemporary Chinese American writer and the author of the national bestseller novels Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Jean’s family immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong when Jean was only five years old. She spent most of her childhood working in a clothing factory located in Chinatown, close to Brooklyn, NY.
Kwok is an accomplished scholar who attended Harvard University. Since her family wasn’t well off, Kwok had to work up to four jobs at a time in order to put herself through college. While at Harvard, Kwok learned that she loved to dance. She worked as a professional ballroom dancer for three years. This experience helped when she was writing her second novel, ''Mambo in Chinatown.'' Kwok then decided to go back to school to pursue her MFA in fiction at Columbia University.
Kwok currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband, their two sons, and their cats. Kwok can speak English, Cantonese, and Dutch fluently.
After living in Hong Kong five years after Jean was born, Kwok's family decided to immigrate to Brooklyn, New York. The apartment that her parents and six siblings lived in was roach infested and they lived without central heating. She had to work in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. After middle school, Kwok was accepted into Hunter College High School, a public secondary school for intellectually gifted students. Upon graduation from high school, she won early admission to Harvard College. Originally interested in science, she realized that college was a place where she could do whatever she wanted. This realization prompted Jean to change her major to English and American Literature. She received her BA in English with honors, all while working up to four jobs at a time. After pursuing dance for a couple years, Kwok then decided it was time to go back to school and got her MFA in fiction at Columbia University. 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. She lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two sons, and now writes full-time.
After her graduation from Harvard, Kwok needed a day job to help support herself while she was writing. She saw an ad in a newspaper for a professional ballroom dancer with training provided. She decided to go in for the interview and got the job. She spent three years working for Fred Astaire East Side Studio in New York City.
Girl in Translation
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. Although under normal circumstances Kwok's family would not have been okay with her writing this novel, they're glad that their story was told.
Author Min Jin Lee compared the novel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. 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."  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." Girl in Translation was featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others.
Mambo in Chinatown
Kwok's experience working as a professional ballroom dancer helped her to write her second novel about a young woman and her obligations to her family in Chinatown and her love of ballroom dancing.
Kwok's second novel Mambo in Chinatown was also published by Riverhead Books. It was published on June 24, 2014. It was one of the New and Noteworthy Books listed by USA Today in June 2014. It was selected for Penguin Stacks and Real Simple's Best Books of 2014.
- Gretz Fellow, Ragdale Foundation, 2015
- Real Simple's Best Books of 2014
- Woman's Day's Best Books of 2014
- American Library Association Outstanding Book for the College Bound, 2014
- Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award shortlist, 2012
- Hunter College High School Distinguished Graduate Award, 2012
- John Gardner Fiction Book Award finalist, 2011
- Orange New Writers Book, 2011
- American Library Association Alex Award, 2011
- Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award, 2010
- National Blue Ribbon Book, 2010
- Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, 2010
- Indie Next Pick, 2010
- Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award nominee, 2010
- Best Cultural Book, Book Bloggers Appreciation Week, 2010
- Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Scholarship
- Columbia University Graduate Writing Division Fellowships
- Harvard Club of New York Scholar
- John Harvard Scholarship for Academic Achievement of the Highest Distinction
- Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Scholarship for Academic Achievement of the Highest Distinction
- Girl in Translation (2010)
- Mambo in Chinatown (2014)
- "Where the Gods Fly" (2011)
- "And Fire Begets Earth" (1998)
- "Disguises" (1997)
- "Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds" (2000)
- "A Translation of Schrijvende Vrouw" (2000)
- "Our Mothers, Ourselves" (2010)
- "The Sweatshop Was My Second Home" (2010)
- "O Brother, Where Art Thou" (2011)
- Elements of Literature (2007)
- The NuyorAsian Anthology (1999)
- Kwok, Jean. "Jean Kwok | Official Author Website". jeankwok.com. Retrieved 2015-08-06.
- "'The sweatshop was my home': How one woman escaped the poverty trap". Retrieved 2015-08-06.
- "Jean Kwok" Contemporary Authors, Gale Cengage, 2011.
- "Jean Kwok" New York, NY: Penguin Speakers Bureau. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
- "Jean Kwok and the Girl in Translation" by Amanda Cardo, Sampsonia Way, April 27, 2011.
- "Bustle". www.bustle.com. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
- "Interview: Jean Kwok and Girl in Translation (Part Two) | Sampsonia Way Magazine". www.sampsoniaway.org. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
- "Girl in Translation", Princeton Book Review. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
- "'Girl in Translation':Debut Novel is an Immigrant's Tale" by Nicole Tsong, Seattle Times, May 1, 2010.
- "Reflections on Labor Unions since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire" by Hannah Lee, Philadelphia Jewish Voice, March 29, 2011.
- "Girl in Translation", Liberty Bay Books. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
- "News & Reviews", Jean Kwok Official Website. Last accessed May 1, 2011.
- "Website For Asian Writers". Website For Asian Writers. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
- "Books: New and noteworthy". Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok - Penguin Books USA.
- "Real Simple Readers Review the Best Books of 2014". Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- Jean Kwok's website
- TV documentary on Jean Kwok
- Jean Kwok – Penguin Speakers Bureau
- Interview and Reading Group Guide – Penguin Books
- Jean Kwok's Debut 'Girl in Translation' Speaks Eloquently – USA Today
- New Releases – New York Times
- Debut Novel is an Immigrant's Tale – Seattle Times
- Girl in Translation – Irish Examiner
- Sampsonia Way Interview