- Ask students to do research on the lives of people both in Hong Kong and in New York's Chinatown in the 1980s. Prompt them to learn more about the politics, economics, educational opportunities, and other factors that contribute to quality of life.
- Then instruct them to write a persuasive essay making the case for why Kim and her mother should or should not have moved to New York in pursuit of a better life.
- Require students to cite data and facts as well as Kim's experiences in New York and her memories of life in Hong Kong.
- Instruct your students to imagine a different ending to the Girl in Translation and write it.
- Prompt them to consider how might things have gone differently for Kim, considering other choices she could have made or features of her life that could have gone differently.
- Instruct students to think about their first day of junior high or high school. Ask them to write all the words that come to mind when they think about that day. You might use the following prompts:
- How did you feel?
- What did it look like?
- What did you wear?
- Who did you see?
- Who did you talk to?
- What were your fears or concerns?
- What were your hopes?
- Then ask students to write a paragraph describing their first day of school.
- Next, ask them to reread the account of Kim's first day at her neighborhood school (pp. 23—27) and at Harrison (pp. 124—133).
- Instruct them to complete a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast their first day experiences with Kim's.
Poetry Analysis & Poetry Writing Activity
- Review the long history of Chinese immigration to the United States with your students. Remind them that, across different times and settings, many immigrants deal with the same feelings and challenges.
- Introduce students to the history of Angel Island using the Poetic Waves website.
- Then have them read a few selected poems from Angel Island. As they read, ask them to identify the main themes in the poems (i.e., loneliness, fear, confusion, disappointment, etc.).
- Then ask them to compare and contrast the feelings expressed by the immigrants at Angel Island with those expressed by Kim and her mother.
- Next, have students reread the novel’s prologue and pages 3-10. As they read, ask them to circle words that are particularly vivid or descriptive.
- Then have them write a poem about immigration using Jean Kwok’s words.
Welcome to America!
They say loudly.
But their eyes are harsh:
You stupid country bumpkin!
Roach! Rat! Fat Boy!
Now I understood, deflated.
Stories of the Golden Mountain
are torn away.
Liberty? Good fortune?
I am creaking, worn, broken here
as I was at home.
Analysis & Writing of Op-Ed
- Have students read Pungent Chinatown, a short letter to the editor of the New York Times written in 1981. Lead students in a discussion about the tone (sarcastic) and purpose (to draw attention to the unsanitary conditions of Chinatown) of the piece. Consider how the author's description of Chinatown compares to the descriptions in Girl in Translation.
- Then ask students to identify a problem in their city or town and to write a mock letter to their town's newspaper drawing attention to the issue.
Note: If students are not familiar with Pearl S. Buck, you might need to introduce her to them first. Consider asking them to read excerpts of Buck's works that describe 19th century China.