From the bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee and Girl in Translation, a novel about a young woman torn between her family duties in Chinatown and her escape into the world of ballroom dancing.
Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Wong grew up in New York’s Chinatown, the older daughter of a Beijing ballerina and a noodle maker. Though an ABC (America-born Chinese), Charlie’s entire world has been limited to this small area. Now grown, she lives in the same tiny apartment with her widower father and her eleven-year-old sister, and works—miserably—as a dishwasher.
But when she lands a job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio, Charlie gains access to a world she hardly knew existed, and everything she once took to be certain turns upside down. Gradually, at the dance studio, awkward Charlie’s natural talents begin to emerge. With them, her perspective, expectations, and sense of self are transformed—something she must take great pains to hide from her father and his suspicion of all things Western. As Charlie blossoms, though, her sister becomes chronically ill. As Pa insists on treating his ailing child exclusively with Eastern practices to no avail, Charlie is forced to try to reconcile her two selves and her two worlds—Eastern and Western, old world and new—to rescue her little sister without sacrificing her newfound confidence and identity.
Charlie Wong can't catch a break: instead of taking after her late, beautiful dancer mother, she's awkward and clumsy, and unlike her gifted younger sister, Lisa, she's a terrible student. After struggling through high school, she lands a dishwasher job in New York City's Chinatown, alongside her noodle-maker father. She then goes to work at a dance studio, where she makes for a terrible receptionist, but when Charlie has to teach a beginner's dance class, Kwok (Girl in Translation) pulls out all the stops for an ugly-duckling story. The kind and patient studio staff transforms Charlie by revealing her to herself: underneath her baggy hand-me-downs, she has a strong and sexy body; what she lacks in poise, she makes up for in rhythm, line, and the willingness to work until her feet bleed. While Kwok's depiction of Chinatown as a city within the larger city is intriguing, her writing is blunt, and the plot including Charlie's struggles, successes, and her burgeoning relationship with a dance student is predictable. The lack of surprise dulls the victories and revelations.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Not as great as Girl in Translation, but still captivating and heart-crushing.
Love the book
I loved the book. Inspirational
Mambo in Chinatown
Great read. Better even than her first book. Kudos!