Timothy Hallinan's Reviews > Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang
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's review
May 15, 2011

it was amazing
Read in April, 2011

This is the best book I've read about the human side of 21st-century China. Chang, the former Wall Street Journal Beijing correspondent, worked for more than a year to create relationships with the young womenwho have left their villages behind and gone into the factories of the South. In focusing her narrative on such a humans scale, Chang puts a face on the Chinese industrial juggernaut -- and it's the face of young women and teenage girls, who have walked away from everything and everyone they know in life, and gone to "eat bitterness" in the factories of the special economic zones. They work under appalling conditions, quit jobs to take better ones, work desperately to improve themselves, and --sometimes -- triumph.

They're also inventing a whole new concept of what it means to be Chinese: free of the village, free of paternalism, free of the expectations imposed on female children, free to fail horribly. But if they succeed, they turn on its head the ancient Chinese conviction that male children feed their parents and female children eat them. There are probably now -- for the first time in China's endless history -- as many, or even more, families being supported by daughters as by sons. This is a revolution more radical than anything Mao dreamed of.

BTW, Chang is married to Peter Hessler ("Oracle Bones," etc.) and she researched this book at the same time Hessler waa researching COUNTRY DRIVING. Then they left China, moved for Colorado, and wrote their books in adjoining rooms. The cross-pollination is evident, and these are even better read as a pair. But her book is, for me, the better of the two.

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