Jean Kwok is the award-winning, New York Times and international bestselling author of Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in 18 countries and taught in universities, colleges and high schools across the world. A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Kwok’s new novel Searching for Sylvie Lee (William Morrow) published in June 2019.
A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, Searching for Sylvie Lee is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love. The novel was named a most anticipated book of 2019 by publications such as Named a most anticipated book of 2019 by publications such as Marie Claire, Nylon, Huffington Post, CrimeReads, Bookbub, Book Riot, and Debutante Ball.
Kwok captures audiences’ hearts and minds through powerful and inspiring presentations that focus on understanding the immigrant experience, the power of language, and what it means to succeed and embrace failure. She immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood while living in an unheated, roach-infested apartment. In between her undergraduate degree at Harvard and MFA in fiction at Columbia, she worked for three years as a professional ballroom dancer. Her beloved brother Kwan passed away in a tragic plane accident and was the inspiration behind Searching for Sylvie Lee.
Kwok has been selected for many honors including the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award international shortlist. A television documentary was filmed about Kwok and her work. Kwok is trilingual, fluent in Dutch, Chinese and English, and studied Latin for seven years. She lives in the Netherlands with her husband, two sons and four cats.
Praise for Jean Kwok:
“The Maryville Reads book has always been used by the freshmen for the first year experience, but Girl in Translation is the closest we’ve come to a common read for the entire community. The book is rich with a variety of themes that have worked for classes in Occupational Therapy, Graduate education, Business and Nursing. The themes in the book have also closely matched the themes in the First-Year Experience seminar, such as immigration. Beyond that, Girl in Translation has had a wide appeal, from the freshmen who are male to our major Maryville donors. The book has inspired the donor society to start a book club with Girl in Translation as the first read. We were lucky to have Jean Kwok appear at two events: one a community event in the evening and the other for students the next day during their Freshmen Seminar class time. We had a nice turnout in the evening and a packed house in the morning.Both audiences loved her candor. She is open about the hardships and the iences and those of Kimberly Chang. Jean Kwok has been a university professor so she knows how to relate to successes in her own life drawing parallels between her experthe students. While telling her story, she is teaching them as well. She does it all with humor and goodwill.”
--Eugenia V. McKee, Ph.D., Dean of the Maryville University Library, Maryville Reads
“Thank you again for being the best FYE author Wright State has ever worked with. All our previous authors were quite wonderful, but your enthusiasm and interest in first year student success came shining through in each of the three events you participated in at WSU.”
--Catherine Queener, Director of First Year Experience Programs, Wright State University
“The students absolutely loved Jean and were inspired by her words--for most of them, this was the first time they had had an opportunity to see a writer of one of their assigned books in person. I can attest to the impact that Jean's visit will have on them long into the future.”
-- LuAnn Fletcher, Director/Professor, Chair of the Department of History, Literature, and Languages, Cedar Crest College
"Good humored, accessible, cheerful, and engaged, Jean Kwok was the perfect author for our one book, one community read. Jean's life journey and her touching and tragic story became the catalyst for her book Searching for Sylvie Lee. This popular pick has so many points of discussion; from family dynamics, racism, generational differences, exploration of marriage and sisterhood to traveling with the characters from Brooklyn to the Netherlands. We would highly recommend Jean Kwok as both a guest speaker and or to host an author event.”
-- Kate Buckardt, Reference Manager, Lake Forest Library
Praise for Searching for Sylvie Lee:
“I was only about two-thirds of the way through Jean Kwok’s Searching For Sylvie Lee when I began telling everyone I know: “I’ve found this book, you need to read it.”... This is a story like no other.”
-- Marie Claire, “Best Fiction of 2019”
“Kwok tells this story of an immigrant family with lucidity and compassion… a profoundly moving portrayal of the complicated identities that exist even within a single family… a graceful portrait of the sacrifices we make for love.”
-- Nylon Magazine, “50 Books You’ll Want To Read In 2019”
“Like all most compelling mysteries, Jean Kwok’s Searching for Sylvie Lee has a powerful emotional drama at its heart. A twisting tale of love, loss and dark family secrets."
--Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water
“Searching for Sylvie Lee is riveting. A dazzling, talented woman disappears, leading her younger sister to search the Netherlands—and the past—for the truth. This novel is part mystery, part saga of an immigrant family. It is both gripping and emotionally resonant on every page—a remarkable achievement.”
-- Scott Turow, New York Times bestselling author of Testimony
“Dazzling. A heartbreaking, tumultuous ride of a novel that upends our expectations—about family loyalty, cultural identity and the very nature of love itself—at every twist and turn. Kwok is a wise and knowing story-teller who keeps us under her spell until the very last page.”
-- Julie Otsuka, New York Times bestselling author of The Buddha in the Attic
“This isn’t a novel––it’s a puzzle box of familial secrets, some dark, others luminous, all of it haunting, mysterious, and completely satisfying. I was utterly spellbound.”
-- Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“Deftly moving between generations and from New York to the Netherlands, Searching for Sylvie Lee is a page-turner, and a suspenseful journey of secrets, family, loyalty, and loss.”
-- Lisa Ko, award-winning author of The Leavers
“A wonderful portrait of an immigrant family and one of the best ‘unputdownable’ suspense novels I’ve read in a long time.”
--Herman Koch, New York Times bestselling author of The Dinner
“Crossing continents and generations, this magnificent and enthralling story unfolds with the intricate suspense of a classic mystery novel and blooms into a radiant tale of inter-generational family love.”
-- Lan Samantha Chang, award-winning author of Inheritance
“With prose as mesmerizing and full of depth as a perfect pearl, Kwok’s new literary masterwork explores the Chinese immigrant experience both in New York and in Holland, but what it’s really getting at is what it means for anyone to belong—to both your community, your family, and to yourself.”
--Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World
“Masterfully written, this suspenseful story of two sisters, and the power of long-buried secrets, is also a profound exploration of one immigrant family’s search for identity and belonging in an increasingly global world. Searching for Sylvie Lee will haunt me for a long time.”
--Sari Wilson, acclaimed author of Girl Through Glass