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

Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang
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Apr 08, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: china
Read in May, 2011

This book chronicles a few years in the lives of women who migrated from their villages to the cities to work in factories and make new lives for themselves. Most of the factories highlighted were in the Guangdong Province. For example, one Dongguan factory makes branded athletic shoes with nearly 70,000 employees - most under the age of 30. (Note that many of the parts for the shoes are smuggled out so that it is hard to necessarily spot a counterfeit made elsewhere.) The girls interviewed had goals and desires to succeed beyond the factory. They often fibbed their way into higher positions for which they had absolutely no experience and sometimes refrained from contacting their families for fear of disapproval of their choice not to marry or to marry outside their village (though they still typically sent money home to their parents). They also often strove to learn English in their limited hours off in order to improve their skills (work weeks were typically 6 days with long hours). Especially eye-opening to me was how the loss of a cell phone can essentially isolate one of these workers when they lose all of their saved contacts in a world where they already have very few contacts because of the distance from home and long work hours that don't promote much social life. This was a very educational read - the only part I didn't like was the author/journalist's attempt to weave her own family history into the story. She is Chinese American and decided to trace her roots during the course of interviewing factory workers for this book. The ties/similarities she tried to point out between her family's story and the migrant workers' stories were tenuous at best and, in my opinion, would be best left for a different book. I would probably just tell people to skip those portions to get the most out of the book.
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