“For years, I calculated whether something was expensive by how many skirts it cost. In those days, the subway was 100 skirts just to get to the factory and back, a package of gum cost 7 skirts, a hot dog was 50 skirts, a new toy could range from 300 to 2,000 skirts.”
When Kim and her mother move from Hong Kong to New York, they expect to find a better life. Instead they live in an infested, condemned building and work for a pittance in her Aunt’s Chinatown sweat shop. Kim is academically gifted, and wins a full scholarship to a private school where she walks a tightrope between the two halves of her life.
The book seems to be semi-autobiographical – Author Jean Kwok also moved to New York from Hong Kong as a child, worked in a Chinatown clothing factory throughout her childhood, won a scholarship to a prestigious school and went on to study at an Ivy League college.