Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
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Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  3,461 ratings  ·  580 reviews
An eye-opening and previously untold story, Factory Girls is the first look into the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China.

China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the l...more
Hardcover, 420 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2008)
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Sandy Tjan
In the early 2000s, my brother briefly worked as an executive for a Taiwanese-owned manufacturing company in China. It was a company of truly epic proportions, employing hundreds of thousands in China and abroad, and manufacturing for virtually all the big names in consumer electronics sold all over the world. If you use an IPad or any other Apple product, it would have passed through one of its gargantuan production facilities. Its ‘campus’ in Longhua, an industrial suburb of Shenzhen, was prac...more
Chia-Yi
While being able to relate to Chang certainly is not a prereq for enjoying this book, I think I've had a different experience reading this book than non-Chinese-Americans may have. My mom grew up working in sweatshops and factories in Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s, so this book has been really interesting as a look into the generation of girls that came after her. She had limited schooling, and worked with her hands her entire life. The mentality of moving up and switching jobs a...more
Jennifer
There are two great reasons to read this book! One, the direct relevance it has to almost everyone alive today who consumes products of any sort (shoes, bags, cell phone parts, computer parts) made by the intrepid young working ladies of Dongguan in Southern China that the author describes in this book. Second, Ms. Chang's narrative voice was truly a pleasure to read.

The material itself is fascinating and up-to-the minute-timely; the book details how a huge migration is taking place in China, t...more
Ann
I was very disappointed in this book. It was very disorganized.
The way it jumped from one thing to another with no transition beyond some extra space on the page was quite disorienting. (E.g., one section ended with a statement about an old relative laying in bed waiting to die and the next paragraph started with a description of a table loaded with food.)

The descriptions and conclusions also seemed very superficial. I chose the book because I was very interested in learning about life in China...more
Maggie
3 stars but at times 2 1/2. Parts were very interesting while other parts seemed repetitive. The author focuses on a couple of young women who leave the country areas of China, travel to the main cities and seek work in the factories there. Their stories are sad mostly, as they are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. However they also live an unreal lifestyle - easily moving from one factory to the next (often just on the say so of a stranger) in the hope that conditions would be better else...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
You might expect a book about the lives of migrant workers in China to be incredibly depressing, full of tales of abuse. This book isn't like that at all; it's informative, and doesn't gloss over ugly things, but nor does it beat you down.

Factory Girls focuses on the lives of young women living in Dongguan, a huge city in southern China filled with factories and inhabited mainly by migrant workers. The author spent several years getting to know workers there, and most of the book tells their sto...more
James
This book is a bit hard to review because it is somewhat more complex than one would first expect.
The story turns out to be a bit different than the preconceived notion also.

For the positive, the writer had a background at the wall st journal,
probably the least biased newspaper in America and this gave her the mindset and habit to write an interesting and unbiased account of this unusual mass migration from rice patty to factory.

She also integrated her life with her subjects to an unusual deg...more
Nicola
When my sister asked what I was reading recently, I told her it was a book about Chinese factory workers.

“God, you’re worthy,” she replied scathingly.

But the thing is – despite its worthy subject matter and uncomfortably small print – Factory Girls is actually a highly enjoyable read. Providing a flipside to all those “terrible working conditions, suicides, general calamity” articles about manufacturing in China, Leslie T Chang seeks to find out more about the average Chinese factory worker on a...more
Mikey B.
Feb 11, 2013 Mikey B. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mikey B. by: Caroline

             Debrouillez-vous!   



If you have ever wondered about the people who make most of the objects we use on a daily basis – like running shoes, home appliances, kitchen utensils... read this book. We are given an insightful view of their lives and surroundings.

Most of them are young women who come from rural areas. They essentially abandon the rural lifestyle to embark on an urban factory journey. Most will change jobs several times. They will meet a myriad of friends who just come and go. Their li...more
Amber
This book explores two related topics: the conditions and situation of female migrant workers in China, and the author's family history in China (she is American but her family immigrated in the mid-20th century). The former is much, much more compelling than the latter, which to me seemed meaningful for the author but ultimately not compelling enough, or connected enough to the broader story, to warrant being included in the book. Some of the interesting things I learned from this book:
--employ...more
Becky
I am truly at a loss for how to rate this book. It was entirely new information, I vacillated between fascination, horror, and awe…. And then complete boredom. This book could have easily been 150 pages shorter, there were times that it was excruciatingly repetitive, and at one point I actually thought tom myself, “Hasn’t she already told this story?”

The pacing for this book was entirely wrong. The setup and presentation of information was wrong. It seemed so helter skelter. The stories felt l...more
Rusty
This is a novel one can spend hours contemplating. The development of factories in China is often compared to our own Industrial Revolution. It is similar yet different in many ways some of which are cultural, some of which are born of necessity. It's fascinating to follow the migrants who move into the cities from their rural origins.

The author discusses migration of young women from the countryside to the city where they seek jobs in the factories in Dongguan. She tells stories about several...more
Caroline
For me this book felt like a gentle drenching in the culture of Dongguan - a city that grew up from small sweatshop factories and burgeoned into a town of massive enterprises, sucking in migrant workers from rural villages hundreds of miles away.

Seventy thousand people now work at the Yue Yuen factory in Dongguan. "Inside the compound's brick walls, workers sleep in factory dorms and eat in factory cafeterias and shop at factory commissaries. Yue Yuen runs a kindergarten for employees' children...more
Katie
Listened to this on audiobook while jogging. It was long and could've used some editing, I thought--particularly with the long sections detailing the author's ancestor's stories and history. I suppose some would find that part interesting or enlightening but I just thought it distracted from the main story in an already long book. The "main story" being the factory girls.

Now I thought the factory girl stories were really interesting. First of all, I had always pictured Chinese factory workers as...more
Sarah Jacquie
LOL this is my longest review ever, but it is because I was so engrossed in it! I loved every page, every story, and I loved being able to glimpse into the rare world told from a compassionate view and not an economical study of China feeding the world with materialism. In fact, that is briefly mentioned -- instead it is a message of promise and hope.

I did NOT want this to end. This book is beautiful, and it is written through the eyes of someone who stands on the border of being American, and c...more
Kristine
A little longer than it needs to be but it's very enlightening. It really makes you realize how fortunate we are to be employed or even unemployed in the USA.

These girls leave home as young as 14 and are hired at talent markets so they don't even see the conditions of the factory until the first day on the job. They also live at the factory, sleeping in dorms. Working from 8am to midnight with two short (10 minute) breaks is not unheard of. Employers also withold pay so they cannot quit without...more
Mateo
Some people, when they travel, are most amazed by the differences they find ... the donkeys, the tuk-tuks, the rat-on-a-platter, the strange drinks and weird foods. Others are most taken aback by the unexpected similarities: the corn farmer with a cell phone, the slum dweller playing Grand Theft Auto 4, the kids who rock out to punk and metal. The best travel writers and foreign reporters, though, simply see.

This is a splendid, splendid book. It's not only better than I expected, it might even...more
linhtalinhtinh
I suppose for a reader not yet familiar with China, much of this book content would be quite shocking and enlightening. I did not particularly feel that way, yet still there are many insights worth reading.

The main focus of the book, these factory girls, or we should rather call them migrants (since at first I mistook the word "factory girls" for workers on assembly lines only), are fascinating. Instead of knowing them through the usual presentation of statistics, numbers and graphs, plus some...more
Book Concierge
Audio book read by Susan Ericksen
3***

Chang, a Chinese-American former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, spent several years researching this report of modern-day China, and the young women migrant workers who leave their small rural villages to go to work in the big-city factories. She focuses her story on two women in particular – Min and Chunming – expounding on the events in their lives to illustrate the plight of the hordes of workers just like them.

Personalizing the sto...more
Louise
Factory Girls is a non-fiction book written by an Chinese-American journalist. It focuses on the stories of girls who immigrate from rural Chinese villages to factories in more urban areas of China. The girls work in shoe factories, purse factories, factories that make one specific plastic piece for a larger item, and a lot of other factories, but their stories are all the same — they left the village for better opportunities.

I’m glad that someone finally wrote a book like this. People in Americ...more
Pandora
In 'Factory Girls', Leslie unfolded the desperate life of female migrants in China's industrial cities. The book had a great beginning with many real-life accounts of young girls working in sweatshops in China. Those were the young and ambitious women who worked stressfully in assembly lines, who found themselves tangled in danger of being exploited and assaulted, and who had to depend on no other than themself to break away. Sadly, there were just few of them who managed to create their own new...more
Heather
Leslie Chang is a newspaper writer, not a novelist, and it shows in her first book. Though the subject matter is fascinating (an entire generation of Chinese children abandoning their farm lives to make money in the clogged, smoggy cities), Chang's details often get jumbled. In the same paragraph, she will jump forward and backward in time. I found some of this very confusing; she apparently hates chronological order.

Plus, she interjects a heavy dose of her personal family history, ostensibly t...more
Lorenzo
There are two terms that come up to my mind while starting this review: mess and potential.
For "Factory Girls" has potential but is a mess.

Don't take me wrong, I do believe that it's better reading this book than ignoring its existence, but I suppose that whereas most readers can be satisfied with the menu offered by Leslie Chang, many of them could complain about the way this story is delivered.

Oh well, let's begin with the menu. There is an appetizer of tasty introduction followed by two main...more
Lynn
I really learned a lot from reading this. It is about a place I am curious about but have no desire to visit personally. Leslie Chang, an Asian American reporter, spent years in China first with the Wall Street Journal in Beijing and then in a coastal factory city doing the research for this book, which consisted in befriending and hanging out with a couple of migrant workers in one of the factory cities near the south China coast. She really gives an insightful plausible description of what dai...more
Kim
I read this book on recommendation from Ashley and her friend. I always love to learn about other countries, their cultures and their way of life. Factory Girls provides a real inside view to the life of those who migrate from China's countryside to the cities to work in the factories making all the stuff you and I buy at retail stores all over. This part of the book was fascinating. Ms. Chang also spends a significant part of the book detailing her family history and how they have migrated over...more
Nicolemauerman
I spent six months living in China teaching English, even so there are many parts of their culture I never understood, but since living there I have continuously been fascinated with the place. This book is about the migration of young women to a Southern China town to work in factories (all of them sweatshop conditions: long hours, little pay, risk of injury). It also follows the author’s investigation into her own family’s history. Although the book is a bit lengthy, the book is basically the...more
Margaret
Chang investigates the women migrant workers of China, who leave their small villages to work in factories in industrial cities, never settling to one job for long but constantly moving to try to better their situations. The story is told largely through the lives and experiences of two particular young women whom Chang befriended, and she also weaves in her own personal family history. I thought this was exceedingly well-written, compassionate and poignant, telling the women's intimate stories...more
Kim
A in-depth look at the young women (and men) of rural China who "go out" to work in the big cities. The majority end up on an assembly line in a big factory (think Coach, Nike, Reebok, Samsung, etc.,), but some become "managers" or "supervisors". These young women are constantly (and I mean constantly) reinventing themselves to try to get ahead and to improve their lives. There's a great side story as the author investigates her own family's history, including her grandfather's own "going out" e...more
Alice
China today is really the wild, wild west - except with a lot more people. The rural girls who "go out" to the factories learn very quickly that they can only rely on themselves, and lying and cheating are a normal way of life. It's amazing to think this is the reality for thousands of people who make all the little unnecessary things that clutter out lives. I didn't think the author's exploration of her own family really added to the story, but rather was a distraction (I might have given the b...more
Susan
Well, I know alot about why athletic shoes are asl costly as they are: it takes 200 people to make one pair. This was an interesting look at life among young workers in China. I've also learned that we needn't feel quite as guilty about buying from China as the media would have us feel unless it is because an American doesn't work when they do. However, their cultural expectations and sense of who they are as individuals is so radically different from ours, that we are often just projecting our...more
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Leslie T. Chang lived in China for a decade as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, specializing in stories that explored how socioeconomic change is transforming institutions and individuals. She has also written for National Geographic. Factory Girls is her first book.

A graduate of Harvard University with a degree in American History and Literature, Chang has also worked as a journalist...more
More about Leslie T. Chang...
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“A person cannot grow up through happiness. Happiness makes a person shallow. It is only through suffering that we grow up, transform, and come to a better understanding of life.” 6 likes
“The binders hinted at the reasons past relationships had gone sour. SEEKING A 28- TO 34-YEAR-OLD WITH AN OPEN PERSONALITY WHO DOESN'T GAMBLE. SEEKING A CULTIVATED PERSON NOT ADDICTED TO WINE AND WOMEN. An occasional brave soul would throw caution to the winds: SEEKING A 35- TO 45-YEAR-OLD. THE REST IS UP TO DESTINY.” 2 likes
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