Girl in Translation

Kim Character Analysis

Kim is a Chinese immigrant and the protagonist of the novel. She and Ma immigrate to New York when Kim is eleven years old. Though Kim had been a star student in Hong Kong, she struggles in school for several years as she adjusts to American customs and learns English. Her hard work pays off, and she earns a scholarship to a prestigious prep high school, and then to Yale University. Kim’s one friend at school, a white girl named Annette, helps her navigate the complex social landscape. Kim spends every afternoon and evening helping Ma at the factory while also dedicating herself to her studies. Because Kim is far more comfortable navigating the English-speaking world, she effectively becomes the head of household; she files Ma's tax returns and takes on much of the shopping. Kim meets a boy named Matt at the factory and as the two grow up, their attraction to each other intensifies. To cope with her belief that they can't be together, Kim spends her free time kissing other boys, something she's able to do with minimal emotional investment. Things in Kim's life come to a head when she's a senior in high school: her acceptance to Yale means that she and Ma can cut ties with the deceitful Aunt Paula; Annette discovers the shocking way that Kim and Ma live; and Kim and Matt have sex, which results in Kim becoming pregnant. Kim breaks things off with Matt, though she chooses to continue her pregnancy without telling him. In the epilogue, Kim has become a pediatric cardiac surgeon and lives with Ma and her son Jason in a big house. She explains that she still loves Matt, but choosing to not build a life with him was a necessary sacrifice for both of them.

Kim Quotes in Girl in Translation

The Girl in Translation quotes below are all either spoken by Kim or refer to Kim . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of Girl in Translation published in 2010.
Prologue Quotes

I know how it will go: she already spends all of her time after school at the shop, helping with small tasks like sorting beads; later, she will learn to sew by hand and then on the machines until, finally, she can take over some of the embroidery and finishing work, and then she too will spend her days and weekends bent over the unending yards of fabric.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Matt, Jason, Matt's Daughter
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
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One Quotes

Nelson rolled his eyes. "Welcome to America," he said loudly for the adults' benefit. He leaned in to pretend to kiss my cheek and said softly, "You're a rake filled with dirt." A stupid country bumpkin. This time, his tones were perfect.

[…] I felt a flush crawl up my neck, then I smiled and pretended to kiss him back. "At least I'm not a potato with incense sticks for legs," I whispered.

The adults beamed.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Nelson (speaker), Ma, Aunt Paula, Uncle Bob
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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"Never forget, we owe Aunt Paula and Uncle Bob a great debt. Because they got us out of Hong Kong and brought us here to America, the Golden Mountain."

Related Characters: Ma (speaker), Kim , Aunt Paula, Uncle Bob
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
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Two Quotes

Aunt Paula walked us to our workstation, passing an enormous table I hadn't seen earlier. A combination of very old ladies and young children were crowded around it, clipping all the extraneous threads off the sewn garments. This seemed to be the easiest job.

"They enter at this table as children and they leave from it as grandmas," Aunt Paula said with a wink. "The circle of factory life."

Related Characters: Aunt Paula (speaker), Kim , Ma, Mrs. Wu
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
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As Ma had explained earlier, all employees were secretly paid by the piece; this meant that the work the children did was essential to the family income. When I was in high school, I learned that piece payment was illegal, but those rules were for white people, not for us.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Matt, Aunt Paula
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
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Three Quotes

"Don't get too close to the other children here. Ah-Kim, you must always remember this: if you play with them, learn to talk like them, study like them, act like them—what will make you different? Nothing. And in ten or twenty years, you'll be doing precisely what the older girls are doing, working on the sewing machines in this factory until you're worn, and when you're too old for that, you'll cut thread like Mrs. Wu."

Related Characters: Ma (speaker), Kim , Mrs. Wu
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
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Annette was referring to a girl in our class she didn't like because she said the girl was a know-it-all, which she also wrote down for me. It confused me because wasn't it a good thing to know so much?

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Annette
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
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She asked me what I did after school, and when I answered that I was usually working at the factory, she went home and asked her father about it. The next day, she told me it had been a silly thing to say since kids didn't work in factories in America […] that day, I began to understand that there was a part of my life that should remain hidden.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Annette, Mr. Avery
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
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Four Quotes

"Ah-Kim, if you go too many times to her house, we will have to invite her back to ours one day and then what? Little heart's stem, we already have too many debts we can't repay."

Related Characters: Ma (speaker), Kim , Annette
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Five Quotes

"Honey, look at me."

I was so startled by the word "honey" that I obeyed. I had heard Mrs. Avery using it for Annette. This was not a word principals used back home.

Related Characters: Mrs. LaGuardia (speaker), Kim , Annette, Mrs. Avery
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
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I stopped walking for a moment and thought about turning back, going back to who I was. If they knew that Ma made even my underwear for me, that we slept under pieces of fabric we'd found in the trash, they would surely throw me out. I was a fraud, pretending to be one of the rich kids. What I didn't know then was that I shouldn't have worried about pulling any of this off; they weren't fooled at all.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Dr. Weston
Related Symbols: Underwear
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
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Six Quotes

I said to her once, "Ma, you don't have to play for me every week. You have so many other things to do."

"I play for myself too," she'd answered. "Without my violin, I'd forget who I was."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:
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Seven Quotes

How could I have thought that it had been a personal note for me? I burned with shame at wanting so much to be liked, to belong to a circle of friends, that I had picked up something during a test.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Dr. Copeland, Tammy, Mrs. Reynolds
Related Symbols: Ma's Violin and Piano
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Eight Quotes

Our living conditions didn't change but with time, I stopped allowing myself to be conscious of my own unhappiness.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
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I held my breath when we finally got a good view of the Liberty Goddess. She was so close and so magnificent. Ma and Matt were right next to me. Ma squeezed my hand.

"How long we've dreamed of this," she said.

"We're here," I said. "We're really in America."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma (speaker), Matt
Related Symbols: The Liberty Goddess
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nine Quotes

"Annette. Stop it […] This is not some abstract idea in your head. This is my life. If you do something to protest, we could lose our job."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Annette
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ma had told me that Pa had been a brilliant student, with a talent for both languages and science, and that I'd gotten my intelligence from him. I used to take comfort from that, but now I just wished he were here to help me.

All I wanted was to have a break from the exhausting cycle of my life, to flee from the constant anxiety that haunted me: fear of my teachers, fear at every assignment, fear of Aunt Paula, fear that we'd never escape.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Aunt Paula, Pa
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ten Quotes

School was my only ticket out and just being in this privileged school wasn't enough; I still needed to win a full scholarship to a prestigious college, and to excel there enough to get a good job.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Annette
Page Number: 206
Explanation and Analysis:
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Twelve Quotes

I was just a poor girl whose main practical skill was bagging skirts faster than normal […] I was good at school but so were many of the other kids, most of whom had been groomed since birth to get into the right college. No matter how well I did in my classes or how well I managed to fake belonging to the cool circle, I knew I was not one of them.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Annette, Curt, Dr. Weston
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:
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I didn't say anything more, but I thought about the fathers and brothers of the kids at the factory who worked as waiters […] What would they have done if they'd had to pay for such an expensive meal out of their tips? Many of them weren't paid anything but their tips […] Curt had no comprehension of what it was like to be working class.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Curt
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:
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"I knew you didn't have a lot of money but this is ridiculous. No one in America lives like this."

I stated the obvious. "Actually, they do."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Annette (speaker)
Page Number: 251
Explanation and Analysis:
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"Does it have heat?"

She looked startled. "Do you mean central heating?"

"Yes, does it have radiators that work?"

"Of course it does. I mean, don't worry, the heat works great."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Mrs. Avery (speaker), Annette, Dr. Weston
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:
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Thirteen Quotes

When she saw us, she seemed heartbroken, her grief so complete that it left no room for anger. I thought, I never want to love someone like that, not even Matt, so much that there would be no room left for myself, so much that I wouldn't be able to survive if he left me.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Matt, Vivian
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
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"I promised I would make a better life for you, Ma. I'm sorry I was so stupid."

Ma's voice broke. "My little girl, you've had to do everything for us. I am the one who is sorry, sorry I couldn't do more to help you."

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma (speaker), Matt
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:
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Epilogue Quotes

I kept him from his father all these years. When I gave Matt up, I forced Jason to do the same. For my attempt at nobility, our son paid the price.

Related Characters: Kim (speaker), Ma, Matt, Jason
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Kim Character Timeline in Girl in Translation

The timeline below shows where the character Kim appears in Girl in Translation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The adult narrator, Kim, explains that she was born with a talent for school. School was only difficult for... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim stands outside a Chinatown bridal shop, watching a little girl sitting by a mannequin in... (full context)
One
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
After a drive in which eleven-year-old Kim searched futilely for skyscrapers and the Liberty Goddess, Aunt Paula and Uncle Bob park the... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Ma unlocks the front door to reveal a dark and cavernous hallway. She instructs Kim to stay downstairs while she makes her way upstairs, wielding the broom, to make sure... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim inspects the bedroom; there's nothing there but a stained mattress, a flaking dresser, and a... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Stepping back, Kim explains that she and Ma spent their first week in the U.S. in Aunt Paula's... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The next day, Ma and Kim woke alone in the house. Kim suggested they try the special white tea, though Ma... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Aunt Paula returned around lunchtime, sat with Ma and Kim at the table, and complimented Kim's intelligence. Ma politely played down Kim's intelligence and asked... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Back in the present, Ma and Kim spend days cleaning their apartment. On the second day they go to the grocery store... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The roaches prove impossible to exterminate or get used to. Kim misses their neat apartment in Hong Kong, especially Ma's piano. In the Brooklyn apartment, Ma... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The night before Kim starts school, Ma says that she needs Kim to come to the factory with her... (full context)
Two
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Kim begins school in the third week in November. She attends a school that's very far... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim knocks on her classroom door and enters when the muffled voice tells her to come... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
As Mr. Bogart resumes his lecture, Kim places her hand behind her back to listen, as is customary and respectful in Hong... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim holds back tears as she meets Ma outside of the school. She doesn't tell Ma... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Ma leads Kim to a freight elevator and then onto the factory floor. The air is hot and... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Aunt Paula leads Ma and Kim through the factory. They pass a large table with old ladies and young children gathered... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
After an hour, Kim smells a pork bun in addition to the fabric stench. She notices a boy about... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Kim takes a break, she finds Matt at the thread cutters' table. He's sitting with his... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The next morning, Kim feigns illness and insists she needs to stay home from school. Ma knows that Kim... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim decides to go through Ma's things. She finds an old record of an Italian opera... (full context)
Three
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Ma and Kim scrub the radiator in their apartment but no matter what they do, it refuses to... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
One afternoon, Kim peels back the garbage bag covering the broken kitchen window and looks out the back... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
When Kim gets to the factory the next afternoon, she sees Matt dragging a cart piled high... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim finds Ma and admits outright that there was no school, but she spent the day... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Kim vows to go back to school on Monday, as she can't bear the thought of... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Mr. Bogart hands out a test. It takes Kim a few minutes to realize that they're simple math problems in word form. She already... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Kim does well on her test, though her method of solving the problems is slightly different... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Ma and Kim begin leaving their oven on and open all the time. Kim is used to the... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim begins to look forward to school because of the heat and because of Annette. Annette... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim soon learns that her school is in a middle-class black neighborhood, though white kids from... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
That winter, Kim is sick most of the time. Ma cooks traditional Chinese remedies for her but continues... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim tells Ma that in the U.S., students don't get to keep their homework or tests,... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...Bogart's favorite student is Tyrone Marshall, a poor black student. His grades are exceptional and Kim nurses a secret crush on him. Mr. Bogart often speaks about how wonderful Tyrone is,... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim notes that in Hong Kong, her best friend had been the second-smartest student at school.... (full context)
Four
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Mr. Bogart assigns a diorama depicting conflict resolution skills. Annette and Kim decide to work together, and Ma allows Kim to go to Annette's house one afternoon... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Mrs. Avery introduces Kim to the housekeeper, whom Kim greets with a handshake. The housekeeper makes Kim and Annette... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
When they're finished, Kim asks Mrs. Avery to drop her off at the school. Mrs. Avery starts to protest,... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...the time they've taken money for the tuberculosis medicine, rent, and immigration fees, Ma and Kim get very little money. One afternoon, Ma tries to ask Uncle Bob about getting a... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
As Christmas approaches, Kim agonizes over what to get Annette for a gift. Ma isn't sure what they should... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
On the last day before vacation, Ma walks Kim to school instead of heading straight for the factory. Much to Kim's horror, Ma walks... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
At the factory several days later, Kim approaches Matt, tells him "joyful Christmas," and offers him the panda keychain. She tells him... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim had heard of Santa Claus, but she'd always been told that he didn't visit warm... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Not long after the Western new year, Ma and Kim pass a dumpster overflowing with faux fur from a toy factory. They decide to go... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...gods leave at midnight the night before, and return on the new year. Ma and Kim carefully prepare by performing ceremonies to honor the dead and making offerings to the altars... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The next Sunday, Ma and Kim notice lights on at Mr. Al's shop, an unusual occurrence. They decide not to bother... (full context)
Five
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Ma and Kim get to their apartment, Kim translates what Mr. Al said about the block being condemned.... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Ma sternly tells Kim that they have to repay their debts to Aunt Paula, even if Paula is flawed.... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim dedicates herself to learning English. She works through her dictionary and begins teaching herself to... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
In March, Kim and Ma say goodbye to Mr. Al. He gives them folding chairs and a mattress... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The school bully, Luke, had begun staring at Kim in February. He stares at her for months until finally, he tries to trip her... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
After school, Kim is almost nervous enough to vomit. A circle of kids forms outside the school with... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The next day, the principal, Mrs. LaGuardia, calls Kim to her office. Kim is terrified that she'll be punished for her fight with Luke,... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Mrs. LaGuardia assures Kim she's not in trouble and goes on to talk about how there are few public... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
When Kim comes back from Mrs. LaGuardia's office, Luke begins challenging her to fights every day. Another... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
In the spring, Mrs. LaGuardia makes Ma and Kim an appointment at Harrison Prep. Ma is thrilled until she realizes the appointment is on... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim finds her building and the secretary asks if Ma is parking the car. When the... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
The secretary shows Kim around the school, pointing out their trophy case filled with awards and school photographs. The... (full context)
Six
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Kim returns to Dr. Weston's office, she inadvertently offends her by saying the school is quiet.... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...Weston mentions that they may be able to get up to 50% of tuition covered. Kim knows the school is still too expensive, so she tries to leave. Dr. Weston asks... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
In class the next week, Kim mentions her interview to Annette. Annette wants to know if Kim thinks she passed the... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...approaches, students buy autograph books to have their friends sign. Ma even agrees to buy Kim one. Kim writes the same thing in everyone's books but Annette and Tyrone's; she writes... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Aunt Paula excuses Ma from work on the morning of Kim's graduation ceremony. Kim wishes she could make Ma proud as she watches Annette and Tyrone... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Annette finds Kim and hugs her, excited they'll both be going to Harrison. Mr. and Mrs. Avery introduce... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Aunt Paula is furious that Kim and Ma applied behind her back, but she composes herself quickly. Ma insists that they're... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Annette sends Kim postcards from camp over the summer. Kim gives Annette her real address, as she doesn't... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
One afternoon, Kim is shocked to hear someone ringing their doorbell. She looks outside to see Annette and... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Ma buys Kim a boxy polyester blazer, a white shirt, and a dark blue skirt with rhinestones on... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Kim spends her day attempting to stay away from the bullies. Her Social Studies teacher, Mr.... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Happily, Kim is able to answer a challenge question in Life Science. When she does, her teacher... (full context)
Seven
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
In the locker room, Kim's classmates begin changing. They all have store-bought underwear and some have bras. Kim is envious;... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
After school, Kim is scheduled to work in the library three days per week and have an English... (full context)
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Kim arrives at the factory, Matt comments on Kim's new clothes and says she looks pretty.... (full context)
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim has her first tutoring session the next day. She meets her tutor, Kerry, and Kerry... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Greg has several bullying targets and is merciless and cruel. In classes, Kim still struggles to keep up, especially in Mr. Scoggins's class. He doesn't understand why Kim... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
On a Monday a few weeks after the start of school, Kim hears a noise above after she changes in the bathroom stall for gym. A girl... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Ma and Kim buy a package of underwear at Woolworth's, but they have to go to Macy's to... (full context)
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim and Annette sit together for lunch every day, where Annette talks at length about her... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Kim does her best to avoid Aunt Paula at the factory. One afternoon, Paula invites Ma... (full context)
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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At Aunt Paula's house, Kim notices that Nelson is wearing his school uniform too. She realizes that Paula wants to... (full context)
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...fit in at Harrison, as she looks funny and is outspoken. Tammy occasionally sits with Kim, but after Kim makes excuses as to why she doesn't have a phone, Tammy stops... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim's teachers grade her on how much her English improves, and it does improve. During her... (full context)
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Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Kim watches her classmates develop social lives and notices them starting to go out as a... (full context)
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Kim's classmates are extremely stressed about an upcoming science test, though Kim is thrilled to have... (full context)
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Kim realizes what happened and Tammy catches her eye, silently pleading for her not to tell.... (full context)
Eight
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...the idea to put the notes in her sleeve. He makes a joke about saving Kim so that he can continue cheating off her tests. When they re-enter the classroom, Kim... (full context)
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At about this time, Ma and Kim finally get a phone. Kim tells Ma she needs it for homework, though the truth... (full context)
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The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Ma struggles through the cold winter but fortunately, her tuberculosis doesn't return. Kim stops allowing herself to be conscious of how horrible her living situation is. Ma brings... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
One afternoon, Annette convinces Kim to come with her to a movie. Kim makes up an excuse for Ma, and... (full context)
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For the summer, Annette goes to camp upstate and Kim returns full-time to the factory. She explains that she and Ma are responsible for bagging... (full context)
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Matt pretends to be offended and as they banter, he learns that Kim has never actually seen the Liberty Goddess or Manhattan. He suggests they all go out... (full context)
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Later, Aunt Paula approaches Ma and Kim and tells them that the rate for skirts is going to drop to one cent... (full context)
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Matt gives Kim his gold necklace and asks her to give it to Mrs. Wu. Kim is puzzled... (full context)
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On Sunday, Ma and Kim meet Matt in Times Square. Kim is struck by how fancy everything and everyone looks,... (full context)
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Finally, Matt ushers Ma and Kim onto the Staten Island Ferry to see the Liberty Goddess. When they finally see her,... (full context)
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As the ninth-grade school year starts, Kim's classmates all take placement tests in math and science. Kim loves those subjects, as they... (full context)
Nine
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Though Kim has several casual friends, Annette remains her only true friend. In ninth grade, Annette begins... (full context)
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One afternoon, when Annette finds Kim in the library, she asks why Kim is never home in the afternoons. Kim dances... (full context)
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A week before the exam, Annette insists on taking Kim to Macy's to relax. Kim is skeptical that this is even possible, but she lies... (full context)
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Kim obtains working papers, which means that she can actually be paid for time working at... (full context)
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Kim tells Park that she has an article on his motorcycle. The sewing ladies are shocked... (full context)
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The night before Kim's exam, a shipment is due at the factory. She and Ma get home after 2am... (full context)
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Later, at the factory, Matt invites Kim to go with him to deliver something to his father. Kim is surprised, as she... (full context)
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...bar. Chinese men sit around a card table piled with cash, and Matt looks at Kim as though to ask her if it's okay he brought her here. She gives him... (full context)
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Matt walks to one man who Kim assumes is Matt's father. The man seems annoyed to be interrupted but accepts Matt's proffered... (full context)
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As Matt's father returns to the table, he notices Kim and asks her what cards she would play. Kim knows the game is about statistics,... (full context)
Ten
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By tenth grade, Kim is one of the best students at her school. One evening, Annette asks Kim on... (full context)
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Ma finally allows Kim to grow out her hair, and since her body settles in a perfect size six,... (full context)
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Annette accepts Kim's limitations for the most part. As the year goes on, Annette develops an admiration for... (full context)
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At the factory, Kim is tuned into Matt's every move. One afternoon, she mistakenly comments that his pants look... (full context)
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Curt breaks a leg skiing right after Kim turns sixteen. They haven't spoken at all since he defended her to Dr. Copeland in... (full context)
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As Kim's popularity rises, boys begin to take interest in her. She feels liberated now that Matt... (full context)
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Kim begins tutoring Curt once per week, which she's initially happy to do. However, as Curt's... (full context)
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Curt makes polished woodcarvings, all of which are abstract. Kim studies one that looks almost like the Chinese character for water and asks why he... (full context)
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Curt asks about her phrasing, and Kim asks if Curt's parents don't talk that way. He explains that his parents are editors... (full context)
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...Mr. Jamali comments on her love of the dramatic and convinces her to try out. Kim loves to watch Annette during rehearsals, as she never gets to see the evening performances. (full context)
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Aunt Paula and Uncle Bob invite Kim and Ma to accompany them to see Nelson's debate competition. Apparently, he's very good. In... (full context)
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That winter, Ma and Kim's stove finally breaks. After a few nights huddled together under blankets, Ma calls a man... (full context)
Eleven
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Kim calls the gas company and they send a repairman. He looks around the apartment with... (full context)
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Matt drops out of high school to work full-time, while Kim begins taking freshman classes at Polytechnic University. Those classes end later in the day, so... (full context)
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...of the boys steps in front of Park and tries to get him to speak. Kim puts herself between Park and the boy, insults him, and yells for Park to run.... (full context)
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Kim continues to tutor Curt for the upcoming SATs. One afternoon, she sits in the studio... (full context)
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Kim finds Annette at the theater and tells her about the party. Annette believes that Kim... (full context)
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...coming. She and Uncle Bob race around, cleaning up and ushering children into secret places. Kim ends up in a dark men's bathroom with Matt and three little kids. They huddle... (full context)
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Kim hears the inspectors pass by. Her heart pounds, both with the fear of being found... (full context)
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After this, Kim makes a point to be kind to Park and flirts openly with other boys at... (full context)
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On the evening of Curt's party, Kim goes to Annette's house. She greets Mrs. Avery warmly and Annette lets Kim borrow a... (full context)
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Annette spots a friend from theater, so Kim takes Annette's purse to the bedroom. Kim flips on the light and screams when something... (full context)
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Though Kim has never smoked before, she's watched men in Hong Kong smoke and knows how. Curt... (full context)
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...the factory, and Aunt Paula effectively takes over running the factory. One afternoon, Paula brings Kim an envelope containing her test scores. Kim insists she wants to wait to open them... (full context)
Twelve
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As Kim begins her senior year, she and Curt continue to fool around and rumors circulate that... (full context)
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Soon, Dr. Weston calls Kim into her office to talk about where Kim wants to go to college. Kim wants... (full context)
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The next day, Ma brings home a stack of cheap china plates and tells Kim to break them, which is supposed to bring good luck. Kim breaks them even though... (full context)
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Mr. Jamali casts Annette as the lead in Our Town, and Kim promises to be there on opening night. However, Kim discovers she has to back out—her... (full context)
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Aunt Paula still receives Kim's score reports in the mail. Though Kim and Ma try to keep Kim's results a... (full context)
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One afternoon, Curt tells Kim about an "arrogant waiter" at a restaurant. The waiter wouldn't bring Curt his bill, so... (full context)
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On the day of Kim's naturalization test in January, she sits at home studying. She hears a knock at the... (full context)
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Kim explains that she'll be able to get out of the apartment soon as Annette looks... (full context)
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At a tutoring session with Curt a week later, Curt tells Kim that life in the suburbs is hell on earth. Kim thinks that life in the... (full context)
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A month later, Mrs. Avery invites Kim to her office. She explains that she found an apartment in Queens, though it's not... (full context)
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Mrs. Avery notices Kim's hopeful look and mentions that she'll need a deposit, paperwork, proof of employment, and salary... (full context)
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In March, Kim and Curt are leaving a school building together one afternoon when Kim notices Matt watching.... (full context)
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When Kim and Matt arrive, they're too emotional to think clearly. Kim offers Matt a towel and... (full context)
Thirteen
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Ma and Kim aren't surprised when Aunt Paula calls them to her office; they know that they should... (full context)
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Aunt Paula says that Ma and Kim are ungrateful, points out that she sacrificed to get them all to America, and then... (full context)
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Aunt Paula suggests that Ma and Kim leave the factory and the apartment if they feel taken advantage of, and her eyes... (full context)
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Later, the doorbell rings and Kim leads Matt up into the apartment. He and Ma chat over tea and after a... (full context)
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Haltingly, Matt says that when he was out with Vivian, he'd sometimes see Kim's face in front of him. He chose Vivian because she needed him, and it seemed... (full context)
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...need money or success to love someone, have kids, and make a life. He tells Kim she'd be a great mother, to which Kim says she'd be a great surgeon. Matt... (full context)
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The next few weeks are extremely happy for Kim. Mrs. Avery is able to arrange for Kim and Ma to move to their new... (full context)
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Kim and Matt spend time wandering around Chinatown, where she learns that Matt knows everyone. One... (full context)
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Once, when Kim and Matt are lying together at his apartment, he suggests that Kim skip Yale and... (full context)
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Kim thinks that she's known she's pregnant ever since she saw the broken condoms. She tells... (full context)
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Kim waits for Ma to get home and then runs to her, sobbing. Ma guides Kim... (full context)
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Kim asks Ma if she ever worried about marrying Pa. Ma explains that when she did,... (full context)
Epilogue
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Twelve years later, Kim explains to a man named Mr. Ho that his young son, Pete, has a congenital... (full context)
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Kim explains that in her mind, she runs into Matt everywhere. She wonders if that's why... (full context)
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Early one Saturday morning, Kim stops in at the hospital to check on a newborn patient who'd had surgery the... (full context)
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Kim asks after Park and Vivian. Matt explains that he and Park are working at UPS,... (full context)
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Kim says that she regrets what she did, but she felt as though she had no... (full context)
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Kim opens her mouth to say something, but Matt interrupts and says that Vivian is pregnant... (full context)
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Kim offers to give Matt a ride home on her Ducati motorcycle. The ride feels much... (full context)
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Kim and Matt say goodbye, and Kim watches him walk into his apartment. She begins to... (full context)
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As Kim rides home, it begins to rain. She thinks that the worst part is that seeing... (full context)
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Kim explains that both Ma and Annette had gone with her to her abortion appointment. They... (full context)
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Jason loved Kim desperately, though she was away for much of his early childhood. He cried whenever she... (full context)
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Kim thinks that she gave Matt his life with Vivian and his children, though she took... (full context)