From the bestselling author of Girl in Translation, a novel about a young woman torn between her family duties in Chinatown and her escape into the world of ballroom dancing.

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 (American-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. When 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.


"Best Books of 2014: Mambo in Chinatown. Western convention clashes with traditional Eastern culture when a young, impoverished Chinese-American woman dips her toe into the glittering world of professional ballroom dancing—and finds love." 
— Woman’s Day

"Rarely has [this story] been told with such grace, lightness and humor as in this delightful novel by the author of the best-selling Girl in Translation (2010)."
— Chicago Tribune

"Best Books of 2014: One of This Summer’s Hottest Page-Turners. A riveting story about a young woman who ultimately finds her calling and manages to exceed everyone's expectations - including, most important, her own." 
— Real Simple

"New and Noteworthy Books: Mambo in Chinatown. [One of]... the hottest titles. A young woman who finds herself through ballroom dancing must make peace with her old life in New York's Chinatown. Charming." 
— USA Today

"In her winning second novel (after Girl in Translation, 2010), Kwok infuses her heartwarming story with both the sensuality of dance and the optimism of a young woman coming into her own.”

"Summer Books Preview 2014, titles to keep you reading: Mambo in Chinatown. A young Chinese-American woman is torn between her family duties and tradition in New York's Chinatown and the contemporary life she discovers through ballroom dancing."
Los Angeles Times

“Dreams Take Flight in Jean Kwok’s Mambo in Chinatown…a great story of cultural conflict and reaching for your dreams.”
— Boston Herald

"Best Books of June, Top 10 Fiction List. Heady and entertaining: Mambo in Chinatown."

“Mambo in Chinatown has a propulsive narrative drive and tells an often compelling tale of East-West conflict, adaptation, and assimilation...[readers] will keep turning the pages.”
— Boston Globe  

“Kwok is at her best when exploring and smudging such differences involving culture or class — which in turn suggests that any of us really could become whomever we want to be.”
— Journal Sentinel 

“Editors’ Picks: Excited for Jean Kwok’s Mambo in Chinatown. The story is akin to that in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, one of my favorite novels from 2013, in that the main character is torn between two cultures and is unsure of her place in either.”
Library Journal

"A poignant tale of self-discovery from the bestselling author of Girl in Translation."
Advance (June cover title)

"The kind of book where I put it down, closed my eyes, and the characters were still dancing in my mind. Sweet and lovely, filled with old-world tradition, Chinese superstition, and the complicated dance of forbidden love."
— Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost

“Although the characters are fictional, their personal struggles and emotions are based upon authentic experiences, which make them unforgettable.”
— Sing Tao (largest and oldest Chinese newspaper in the US)
"Kwok has created a charming heroine into whose dance shoes readers can easily step. Charlie faces many of the same dilemmas that plague modern young women: balancing the demands of family and career without sacrificing too much of either, choosing whether or not to pursue love when it may mean giving up a fulfilling work life. Kwok has a gift for conveying the passion and sensuality of ballroom dancing in her energetic prose."
— Shelf Awareness

Mambo in Chinatown is Jean Kwok's sophomore novel, and it's excellent… offers a glimpse into the labor class life of Chinatown. More, readers who love stories about dance and pursuing one's dream will find so much to appreciate in Charlie's story. It's a well-paced, consuming read with well-written, dynamic characters who never once feel anything less than real.”
—  Stacked Books, librarian book blog

“Best Books Read in June: Kwok does an exceptional job of rendering this lesser-visited part of America in a way that’s reverent toward both sides of the story…The sister relationship between Charlie and Lisa, who is much younger than her, was my favorite part of the story though — the love they have for one another and the pain and grief they endure together is vivid.”
— Book Riot

“… like a ballroom dance itself: captivating and sure-footed, and hard to look up from. Kwok draws from her own experience working in Chinatown in her youth, eventually becoming a ballroom dancer and taking to the floor with confidence. Kwok brings to the page all the detail and fluidity that one would expect of a seasoned dancer and writer.”
— Bustle

“Kwok vividly portrays the rich traditions still prevalent in working-class Chinatown and the conflicts common to many other immigrant families, while creating a delightful coming-of-age tale full of romance and mystery.”
— Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

"An engrossing cross-cultural coming-of-age tale."
Largehearted Boy

“Kwok’s writing style is simple and direct but magnificent... wonderfully described with all the heat and sensuality of D.H. Lawrence."
Pop Mythology

“I dare you not to love this book. Kwok’s writing, as in Girl in Translation, is infused with culture, color, and a brightness that is specific to her voice. Her characters are lively and full of personality; they are people we would like to meet, and who would bring richness to our lives. I was impressed by how fresh and charming Mambo in Chinatown was in every way.”
Feffer Books

“The story moves seamlessly, and while I found myself eagerly turning the pages, I also found myself savoring it for its heartwarming thematic qualities and rich combination of description, dialogue and action. It is a novel sure to enjoy as much attention as Kwok’s first, and one that will linger with the reader long after the book is closed.”
— Prism Magazine

“It’s hard to improve on the Cinderella theme, but Jean Kwok manages to do just that.” 
— Book Reporter

“…flows like the best fiction but offers so much more with its insights into the pressures felt by first generation immigrants as they try and navigate their way through a new world while still firmly anchored in the old world by their parents….a marvelous achievement. A novel to be read and treasured by readers of all backgrounds.”
— The Gilmore Guide to Books

“Jean Kwok's entertaining second novel.”
— Bookpage

“5 out of 5 stars! Kwok’s writing is direct and clear, leading the reader as smoothly as a practiced dance instructor. This book is a joy to read, and I flew through it.”
— Fashionista Piranha

“For anyone who’s ever fought to stay true to family and culture while trying to find a unique identity, you’ll be encouraged to see how Charlie finds her own voice as well as her own love.” 
— Mochi Magazine

“I found myself cheering for Charlie as she grew more confident. I also liked the cameo appearance of Kimberly [from Girl in Translation] and getting to find out how her story ends.”
— Reading Extensively

“Jean Kwok is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I appreciate that Mambo in Chinatown keeps one foot in the dreamy world of  ‘will the girl get the guy and win while doing so’ and the other foot in the realistic world of what life is like for the children of immigrants.”
— Read for Pleasure

“Kwok has managed to do it again …kept me up late last night as I read on and off all day long, unable to put the book down until I knew what happened to Charlie and Lisa Wong. I loved Mambo in Chinatown and I can hardly wait to see what else Kwok writes.”
— Books are My Thing

 “Charlie’s passion for life and dance transform her brilliantly.”
— 20Something Reads

"Five out of five stars for Mambo in Chinatown! Clashing cultures, Eastern practices and family all are brought together in an enjoyable journey with Charlie and her transformation." 
— Liberty Bay Books

"Equally triumphant and poignant telling of Charlie’s life as she juggles the opportunities and obstacles she encounters while seeking to fulfill family expectations and follow her own dreams. A treat to read... a touch of well-written romance; some tragic, heartbreaking moments; and endearing characters that develop as the book progresses."
Book Scribbles

"Just as in Girl in Translation, the books gives a good view of how things work in the closed community of Chinatown and its traditions, and how Charlie is living between two cultures. I also loved the romance part and the ballroom dancing that danced as a red line through the story. Mambo in Chinatown is a book I recommend as a new must read!"
Marjolein Reads

"From Kwok (Girl in Translation, 2010), another story about a plucky young Chinese-American woman whose hard work transports her out of poverty and hidebound traditions to find love and success... Charlie's Cinderella story, not to mention Charlie herself, is charming.”
— Kirkus

“Charlie Wong can’t catch a break: instead of taking after her late, beautiful dancer mother, she’s awkward and clumsy, and unlike her gifted younger sister, Lisa, she’s a terrible student.… Kwok’s depiction of Chinatown as a city within the larger city is intriguing.” 
— Publishers Weekly  

"Highlighted Summer Books 2014: Mambo in Chinatown."
Orlando Sentinel

"A beautifully done Cinderella story - with all the humor and sympathy that a modern day immigrant NY story can have. The author takes us to parts of Chinatown that I'd passed and never known much about - Eastern medicine, the tai chi in the small park, people working the push carts and the tough jobs - and makes them come alive through her sympathetic eyes. Mambo in Chinatown is a story of hope, perseverance, tough odds, and the importance of friendship and family. It's heartwarming and lovely!"
Starting Fresh

"Five out of five stars! I am happy to say that Kwok has still got it. A really great adult fiction book that I could see has crossover appeal. It’s a very quick read that touches on some important themes, with intricately detailed relationships, a main character that you can’t help but connect with and care about. It’s a universal read about the love of family and struggling to find your identity."
Good Books and Good Wine

"Five out of five stars! There is something in Jean Kwok's writing that sinks under your skin and takes shape as it blooms into something unexplainably beautiful. Her main character of Charlie is a clumsy dishwasher with callouses, yet she becomes an irresistible young woman when allowed to break out of her family's close inner shell. As the nobody-dishwasher turns into someone that turns heads, the fabulous writing pulls us into this coming-of-age story and doesn't let go. You won't want to put this book down." 
Burton Book Review

"Jean Kwok is able to blend in the themes of love, family, culture, and stress into a fast-paced read that was relatable to Asian-Americans on multiple levels. It is sure to make the audience laugh and remember notable moments." 
– Georgia Asian Times

"The award-winning author of Girl in Translation has done it again with Mambo in Chinatown!"
– Maurice on Books

"What to read this summer: Donna Tartt, Amy Tan, and Mambo in Chinatown."
– The Winchester Star

"A delightful mix of The Ugly Duckling and Cinderella, this story is in many ways a modern fairy tale. The best part is that our heroine is not just a passive good girl waiting for a prince to come and save her." 
– All About Romance

"Pack your bag with these summer 2014 releases! Highly anticipated and highly reviewed: Mambo in Chinatown."
– Quirk Books

"The new Jean Kwok- FABULOUS!"
– Great Thoughts

"With excellent characterizations and storytelling, Mambo in Chinatown pulls you into the world of a young woman inspired by her mother to make a better life for herself in America."
– Book Dilettante

"Do you have a desire that is so secret it is almost unknown even to you? In Jean Kwok’s Mambo in Chinatown, we have the treat of unraveling the life of Charlie Wong."
– Jewish Journal

"A warm, captivating and extremely readable story with a deeper level of wisdom."
– Shyama in Boekenland

"The gorgeous story of one young woman’s search for meaning in a world crowded with others’ hopes and dreams. Readers of cultural stories will absolutely love this tender novel."
– S. Krishna's Books

“This book seamlessly weaves so many worlds, from the dark, heady streets of Chinatown to the effortless grace and glamour of ballroom dancing. The presentation is perfect, with intricacies of the culture explained, and I learnt so much without realising I was being taught.”
The Bookbag
“East meets West in a warmhearted novel about dancing, family loyalty and the trials of the Chinese-American immigrant experience.”
Star Tribune