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Jean Kwok Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Girl in Translation (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
Mambo in Chinatown (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
Searching for Sylvie Lee (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Leftover Woman (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Alone Together(2020)Description / Buy at Amazon
Marple: Twelve New Mysteries(2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Jean Kwok is an international and New York Times bestselling and award-winning author whose work has been taught in high schools, colleges, and universities and has been published in more than twenty countries.
Kwok was born the youngest of seven siblings and remembers being an impractical and dreamy child who loved running wild in the bright lights of Hong Kong.

When she was five years old, her family moved to New York City, which was a horrifying experience as she did not speak English.

Her family had lost everything moving to the US and had to survive working in a Chinatown sweatshop. She still remembers how she used to go to the sweatshop after school to emerge later covered in fabric dust and soaked in sweat.
Her apartment then had no heating and they used to leave the oven door open the entire day during the winter. It was some of these experiences that would be the inspiration for her debut novel “Girl in Translation.”
As she slowly learned English, she began performing better in school and was able to win a scholarship to a public high school for the intellectually gifted named Hunter College High School.

By this time, Jean Kwok’s family had moved to Brooklyn Heights and stopped working at the sweatshop. It was a massive improvement, even if they still did not have much money to spare.

As such, the scholarship was a huge blessing since without the full financial aid package to attend a top school, college would have remained a mirage.

At school, she decided to devote herself to science, even though she loved English as she did not think it was a practical choice.

During her last year in high school, she worked in two laboratories: the Brooklyn-based Veterans Administration Medical Center Biophysics/Interface Lab, and the Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center Genetic Engineering and Molecular Biology Labs.
Kwok got her admission to Harvard and since she had done a lot of advanced work earlier, she started as a Physics sophomore.

It was in college that she realized she never liked science and switched to American and English Literature since writing had always been her true calling.
She put herself through college working up to four jobs at a time.

Some of the jobs she held included directing a summer program for immigrant children, teaching English, washing dishes, reading to the blind, and cleaning rooms.
It was in college that she also realized how much she loved to dance.

After graduating from college, she was looking for a day job when she saw an ad that called for professional ballroom dancers and also offered training.

Unprepared and terrified, she attended the audition and the three-week training class. Ultimately, she got hired and was taught everything about ballroom dancing and went on to work for New York City’s Fred Astaire East Side Studio for at least three years.
She also taught students how to swing, waltz, and mambo and it was this experience that would inspire her second work “Mambo in Chinatown.”

After winning the Fred Astaire National Dance Championship, she left to pursue her writing dream by enrolling in the MFA program at Columbia. Kwok had two of her stories published in the Story anthology even before she graduated from Columbia.
After working in an investment bank, teaching at the Technical University and Leiden University in the Netherlands, and working as a Dutch English translator she finally published “Girl in Translation.”
Once her novel was published she quit to become a professional author.

“Girl in Translation” by Jean Kwok is an exciting and fresh story of an immigrant girl who has to choose between two futures and two worlds.

When Kimberly Chang and her mother move from the sunlit streets of Hong Kong to the squalor of Brooklyn, she finds herself living a secret double life.

She works as a sweatshop worker in Chinatown during the evenings while she is a brilliant schoolgirl during the day. She disguises the debilitating poverty of her family and the fact that all of them look to her to one day get out of their poverty.
But another difficult truth is that she has fallen for a factory boy who is not as ambitious or as talented as she is.

Over time, she learns to translate between the different worlds she straddles, even as she also has to translate her language, now that she is living in a place where English is the lingua franca.
Through her story, the author brings to life the lives of thousands of Chinese immigrants who are often caught between duty to family, the pressure to succeed in America, and their own personal desires.

Jean Kwok’s novel “Searching for Sylvie Lee” is a work that opens with a mystery.

The lead is Sylvie a successful, brilliant, and beautiful older daughter of the Lee family. She just fled to the Netherlands to visit her grandmother for the last time before she vanished.

Amy the youngest in the family does not remember when the family was too poor to keep Sylvie, and had to give her away to a relative a few minutes after arriving in the United States.

Sylvie had then grown up in a foreign and faraway place and never came to the US until she was nine. Shy and timid, Amy had always looked to Sylvie who was seven years older as the fearless and fierce protector who gave her unconditional love.
When Sylvie goes missing, Amy and her parents are desperate for answers about what happened to her. The latter has always been their protector but now it may be up to Amy to step in.

Determined but terrified, she investigates Sylvie’s movements in Europe and the US. But instead of the simple answers she was expecting she finds some painful truths about her sister.

The golden girl Sylvie had been keeping some painful secrets that would reveal a lot more about their complicated family than she could have ever imagined.

“Mambo in Chinatown” is an interesting novel about a young woman from Chinatown named Charlie Wong.

She is a twenty-two-year-old woman who was brought up in Chinatown in New York as the daughter of a noodle maker and a ballerina from Beijing.

While she is Chinese-born in America, her entire world has been all about Chinatown. She is now an adult but continues to live in the same apartment with her father and her younger sister while working as a dishwasher.
Things change when she gets a job for a ballroom dance studio working as a receptionist, as she gets introduced to a totally new world which turns her entire world upside down.

At the dance studio, her natural talents slowly come to light and with them, her sense of self, expectations, and perspectives start to change. Nonetheless, she does her best to hide the fact that she is adopting behaviors and elements he finds too Western.
Things come to a head when her sister falls ill and her father insists on Easter medicine, which does not work and Charlie suddenly finds herself trying to reconcile her new and old worlds, her Western and Eastern self.
She needs to make a decision between the two fast if she is to save her sister.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Jean Kwok

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