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Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  7,137 ratings  ·  896 reviews
China has more than 114 million migrant workers, which represents the largest migration in human history. But while these workers, who leave their rural towns to find jobs in China's cities, are the driving force behind China's growing economy, little is known about their day-to-day lives or the sociological significance of this massive movement. In Factory Girls, Leslie T ...more
Hardcover, 420 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jacqueline Tan Not entirely relevant in today's context. It is worth reading if you want to know what happened around that time. China has changed tremendously in…moreNot entirely relevant in today's context. It is worth reading if you want to know what happened around that time. China has changed tremendously in past decade. A lot of the Chinese migrant workers are now working abroad where the money is good.(less)

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3.91  · 
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 ·  7,137 ratings  ·  896 reviews


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Grace 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
Emmapeel
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ottimo saggio-reportage che fa capire più della Cina di oggi di tante analisi socio-economiche blasonate, 'Operaie' mi ha ricordato assurdamente 'Dove corri, Sammy', di Budd Schulberg. La stessa frenesia disperata di arrivare, di lasciarsi alle spalle condizioni di vita durissime, e di farlo nel più breve tempo possibile. Negli anni '20 era il sogno americano, ora il turno è della Cina, in scala 1:1000. La cosa strana è che a Est la riscossa ha cambiato di segno. 'Non è un problema ma un'opportu ...more
Chia-Yi
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
dehorsmaisdedans
La Cina maoista è morta. Al suo posto, a partire dalle riforme economiche varate da Xiaoping negli anni '70, è sorta - in poche manciate di decenni - la "fabbrica del mondo", una nazione capitalista sempre più industrializzata e globalizzata, che si colloca alla sorgente di ogni commercio manifatturiero, ipercompetitiva e apparentemente onnivora.
Tassello fondamentale di questo processo, dagli anni '80, è stato il surplus di popolazione che dalle campagne povere, non più necessarie alla produzio
...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
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
Mateo
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ann
Nov 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Caroline
Feb 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: world
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
ferrigno
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Uno dei libri più interessanti dell'anno e di sempre è questo saggio/reportage. L'autrice segue le vite di due ragazze emigrate dalle zone rurali della Cina verso una delle metropoli industriali del sud e contemporaneamente racconta la Cina contemporanea -che ti distrai un secondo ed è già cambiata.
La città è Dongguan, 10 milioni di abitanti, parte della "provincia" di Guangdong, un'immensa megalopoli industriale di 100 milioni di abitanti più 30 milioni stimati di migranti non censiti. Di cui i
...more
Brit Cheung
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I acquired this little book last year from a local library that has piles of English books particularly and neatly stacked up in a room, quite cozy and convenient for readers who like to be more bilingual (like me).



The protagnists are those migrant female workers, the young girls who fleed their imporverished rural villages in quest of a better city life.

The book primarily covered a period from late 90s and early 00s. At a time particularly in 90s, if they strive for something new they need to c
...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
Ran
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Journalist Leslie T. Chang tracks the lives of several factory girls in this work, including Min and Chungming, two young women who live in a "perpetual present" in Dongguan, China. Her deep dive in these women's lives illustrates the situations in which they are exploited as cheap labor but also highlights how these women manage to carve a place in the world outside of the village lives of their mothers and grandmothers.
Mikey B.
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
James
Mar 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
James
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to James by: Bay Area Book Geeks
An account of girls moving from rural areas to the big cities for better opportunities, a universal story that could be told in different countries and by many women, including my mother. The first bit of this includes the fairly brutal factory conditions, the chaotic hiring practices and poor living conditions, mill girls from the 19th century gave similar accounts, the Chinese version has been in the news lately.

Next the author gives an account of her grandfather's quest for education that in
...more
Nicola
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Heather
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Alice
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, non-fiction, travel
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
Hân
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian
Đó là một buổi trưa trời nắng đẹp và tôi đi bộ từ ngoài cổng trường vào nhà A. Để vào toà nhà, tôi hay đi con đường dốc thoải thoải, mà cho tới giờ, khi có mặt ở Úc rồi, tôi mới nghĩ là "có thể đó là đường mà kiến trúc sư xịn của trường mình thiết kế ra để cho người tàn tật đi". Hôm đó ở đỉnh dốc, (gọi là dốc thôi chứ người ta hay ngồi bạ ngồi bừa ở bất kỳ chỗ nào trong sự thoai thoải đó), H ngồi, đang đọc một cuốn sách mà cậu đã giới thiệu cho tôi vài ba ngày trước đó. H đọc đầy đam mê, như các ...more
Sarah Jacquie
Jul 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chinese, life
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
Amber
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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
linhtalinhtinh
Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
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
Rusty
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Katie
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
"Factory Girls" is a non-fiction look at young women in China who leave their rural homes in order to forge a better life in the factory boomtowns of their country. As the book shows, the life in the big city is not always what it's cracked up to be for these young women. The hours are long. The wages are low. The work can sometimes feel like indentured servitude. This book gave me a glimpse into a world that I was not familiar with at all.

I love non-fiction books that focus on people and place
...more
Shari Larsen
This book tells the story of the everyday lives of the workers in China's factories, the majority of whom are young women 18-25, who have left their rural villages in hope of a better life. The author also follows the lives of two of these young women over the course of three years of their lives.

Getting into a factory is easy, what is harder is getting out. Employers often withhold up to 2 months of pay, and if an employee wants to quit, they face losing that pay if the employer does not want t
...more
Albert
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Kristine
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, greatest-hits
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
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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
“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.” 14 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.” 5 likes
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