Jean Kwok: Mambo in Chinatown

81o1YPDa5KLJean Kwok is the author of two novels, Girl in Translation, and her latest, Mambo in Chinatown. As a child, she and her family immigrated from Hong Kong to New York where she grew up very poor, survived learning English without resources and eventually earned a place at Harvard University. In this time, she envied her friends who took ballet lessons, a luxury she was not afforded. After graduating from Harvard, she trained at Fred Astaire Studios and became a professional ballroom dancer.

jeankwok403cThis experience inspired her latest novel’s protagonist, Charlie Wong. Charlie navigates two strict worlds: that of intense training in ballroom dancing with professionals in New York, and simultaneously taking care of her family in Chinatown. It’s a delightful and touching story and the book comes out tomorrow. On her first day of the book tour, I interviewed Jean Kwok via phone at our KBOO studios as part of KBOO’s Radiozine program. We talked about her experiences with ballroom dancing, trusting eastern and western medicine, and even some of New York state’s educational policies. Our interview features music from one of my favorite salsa singers, Albita. Check out the podcast!

Air Date: 6/23/2014 
Also: check out this great promo video at her alma mater Fred Astaire studios in New York!