In the book Girl In Translation, Kimberly goes through her coming-of-age process in America, having moved there as a complete foreigner around age 11. There are many similarities and differences between child and adult Kimberly, but a change I see clearly is how much more mature Kimberly became as she ‘came-of-age’. One of the primary aspects of coming-of-age is maturity, including how you deal with problems and face your responsibilities. As and adult, people expect you to be mature, even if it can be very hard to be the ‘bigger person’, and Kimberly takes on that expectation head-on.
Kimberly and her mother are extremely poor, working in an illegal sweatshop for long hours and living in a roach-ridden apartment in the projects of Brooklyn. One of Kimberly’s only friends in America, Annette, doesn’t have a clue what a rough life Kim has. Besides the language barrier, it is extremely hard for Kim to deal with, much less tell her wealthier best-friend, about her home and financial situation. In the beginning, Annette doesn’t seem much to notice, and their friendship glides along, but as they get into high school, Annette starts to wonder why she can’t call Kim, and why Kimberly can’t even afford to wear nice underwear to gym class. Later on in the book, Kim finally comes clean about how she lives when Annette shows up at her house. “I knew you didn’t have a lot of money, but this is ridiculous. No one in America lives like this.” [Annette said]. I stated the obvious. “Actually, they do.” (p. 242) A part of maturing is accepting who you are, and if you don’t like, then you try to change it. Kim does both those things, by toughing it out in her home and working her butt off trying to make a better life for her and her mom.
Another part of maturing is voicing things and taking stands for what you believe in to get things done, rather than waiting around for things to happen on their own. Since the beginning, Kimberly’s Aunt Paula has held over her head that she was the one that brought Kim and her mother to America. She makes them pay her back almost immediately, and puts them in a crappy apartment, secretly not wanting them to ‘make it’ in America. “America! If I hadn’t brought you here, you’d still be in Hong Kong. I even gave you another address so you could go to a better school.” [said Aunt Paula]. “You did that because it’s illegal for us to be living where we are.” [said Kimberly]. In this moment, towards the end of the book, Kim finally voices what she knows, and then she and her mother quit their jobs in Aunt Paula’s sweatshop so Kim can go to Yale, something Aunt Paula didn’t want her to do since it was a sign that Kim was better than her son.
One last way that shows how Kim matured is by getting a boyfriend, and showing Matt that she cares about him. I know this may seem like an odd example of maturity, but telling and showing someone you like them is incredibly hard, which I would know from personal experience. In the beginning of the book, Kim acts as if she is afraid of boys. While reluctantly going on a motorcycle tour with Matt, she says “I did desperately want to put my arms around him but...shyness overwhelmed me just at the thought of it.” Telling someone you like them not only shows bravery, but it shows that you have the power to lay-out who you are and what you’re thinking, instead of being afraid and hiding your whole life.
In conclusion, the main aspect of Kimberly’s coming-of-age that shined through was how much she matured, and took life by the reigns. As a young adult, you can’t always wait for life to make the decisions, you have to, even if that can be scary or tough. Life doesn’t always work out the way you may want it to, and the only way you can try to fix things is by getting up and fixing them yourself.