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

Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang
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's review
Oct 07, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography, history, non-fiction, political, read-in-2009, travel
Read in October, 2009

The interwoven stories of two migrant workers and the family history of a Chinese-American journalist might be a very intimate tale; it is a very personal narrative. Yet the scope of this book is as broad as the middle kingdom itself. Discussion of Chinese history plays off modern global economics which flows seamlessly into societal norms and the changing role of women in modern culture. Everything is discussed so easily within the much smaller story of the lives of three women.

Learning my family story also changed the way I saw the factory towns of the south. There was a lot to dislike about the migrant world of Min and Chunming: the materialism, the corruption, the coarsness of daily existence. But now there was an opportunity to leave your village and change your fate, to imagine a different life and make it real.


Perhaps China during the twentieth century had to go so terribly wrong so that people could start over, this time pursuing their individual courses and casting aside the weight of family, history, and the nation. For a long time I thought of Dongguan as a city with no past, but now I realize it isn't so. The past has been there all along, reminding us: This time--maybe, hopefully, against all odds--we will get it right.

Weighty without being forceful, detailed without getting bogged by minutia, and lyrical without pretension, this book is a beautiful discussion of a changing China.

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