Book Review: Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean KwokMambo in Chinatown: What it is about

From the publishers: “Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Wong grew up in New York’s Chinatown, the older daughter of a Beijing ballerina and a noodle maker. Though an ABC (America-born Chinese), Charlie’s entire world has been limited to this small area. Now grown, she lives in the same tiny apartment with her widower father and her eleven-year-old sister, and works—miserably—as a dishwasher.

But when she lands a job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio, Charlie gains access to a world she hardly knew existed, and everything she once took to be certain turns upside down. Gradually, at the dance studio, awkward Charlie’s natural talents begin to emerge. With them, her perspective, expectations, and sense of self are transformed—something she must take great pains to hide from her father and his suspicion of all things Western. As Charlie blossoms, though, her sister becomes chronically ill. As Pa insists on treating his ailing child exclusively with Eastern practices to no avail, Charlie is forced to try to reconcile her two selves and her two worlds—Eastern and Western, old world and new—to rescue her little sister without sacrificing her newfound confidence and identity.”

Mambo in Chinatown: What I thought

A really nice book. It’s such fun to read, that after the story was finished, I wanted to read much, much more about Charlie and her family and friends.

This is an interesting story about a young woman without many chances in life, from a very poor family. Eventually she does get a chance to get a better life and she becomes a very good Latin dancer. But her father doesn’t approve of things like that. She isn’t even allowed to be in close contact to men, let alone dance in a sexy way with them! And she can’t have an affair with her lovely dancing partner because of the rules at the school she works at. The her sister gets ill. So, while she now has a good job, there are all kinds of problems.

Eventually, all ends up well, of course. There is no other possible outcome with a book like this. But it’s not predictable – except the story line about her sister, which I saw coming from a great distance.

In any case, a fantastic book for the holidays or in order to forget your busy life for a while.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 384

First published: 2014

I got this: for review from the Dutch publishers (Dutch translation: Dans met mij)

Genre: contemporary fiction



About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

6 Responses to Book Review: Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

  1. bibliosue says:

    I enjoyed her first book, Girl in Translation, so I will probably read this at some point. I’m glad to see you liked it.

  2. Mystica says:

    I’ve still to read any of her books though I do read all the reviews and all of them are so positive. One day….

  3. Jean Kwok says:

    Thank you so much for this review! I really appreciate it! 🙂

  4. diane says:

    Judith, i enjoyed this one as well, but preferred her debut novel even more.

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