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3.55  ·  Rating details ·  362 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Inspired by the secret life of the author’s grandmother, Lotus follows a young woman torn between past traditions and modern desires―as she carves out a life for herself in China’s “City of Sins”

“Standing outside the Moonflower Massage Parlor with three other girls, Lotus flashed her red smile at every passing man. She leaned against the glass front of the parlor, one leg
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 10th 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Elyse Walters
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Lotus is a young prostitute, working in China. This is a contemporary story portraying the life of prostitution of China today. Prostitution is illegal. Pictures of 'Ji' are not seen publicly anywhere. "It was as if the countries estimated 10 million working girls didn't exist".

At the beginning -- the first day of the millennium, Lotus is away from the massage parlor where she works day in and day out, taking in the beauty of city of Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong looking at the skyscrapers.
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lotus has left her rural village of Sichuan during Spring Festival 1995, in search of a better life. She refuses to comply with a fixed marriage choosing instead to seek employment in the city. She is ill equipped for this new life since she is an uneducated migrant unfamiliar with the mores of urban city employees. She wants to make money to send home proving that city dwelling has been worthwhile.

Lotus's first job is gluing shoes in a shoe factory. Upon the death of her cousin, Little Red, whe
Leah Rachel
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was warily excited about Lotus by Lijia Zhang when I first began. It’s a piece of historical fiction about a prostitute named Lotus who is trying to support her family back home and a photographer named Bing recording the story of migrant sex workers. I was excited, then slowly but surely disappointed, with some high points, by the end of the novel. I was sent a copy of this novel by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, I wasn’t pleased by the twists and turns this ...more
Mar 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have strange pet peeves when it comes to writing. There are certain turns of phrases that when used demand being expanded upon. The one that rings clearest and earliest in this book is, “There was something about _____”. It doesn’t matter what it is, what you are waxing on about, when those words are written I demand that you try and pin down that something. You might not when, but if you are going to put some emotional weight into a moment you need to try and make it poetry, to show the reade ...more
Breslin White
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm hoping the author writes a second book, because her writing style makes me want to read more. Although the subject matter is very raunchy, it's never approved of by the narrator. This book could be compared and contrasted with Mingmei Yip's Peach Blossom Pavillion.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, netgalley
A compelling read, with bits of magical learnings about self-worth and candid slow prose to soothe the ridged reality. I liked this a lot, it is only missing a dollop of perceived links between wishful thinking and the actual characters.
The book is structured by chapters with delightful titles, giving a hint about the atmosphere to come.
The slow pace of the prose matches very well the transformation of the main character, Lotus, from massage parlour ji (low class prostitute) to becoming a teac
Katie/Doing Dewey
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Summary: This was a slow paced book, but the character and relationship development were touching and believable.

"Surviving by her wits alone, Lotus charges headlong into the neon lights of Shenzhen, determined to pull herself out of the gutter and decide her own path." However, she quickly finds herself working as a "massage girl" or prostitute while lying to her family about the source of the money she sends home. The men who notice her provide her many opportunities for a chance at security,
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
An insightful, well-written novel into what being a prostitute was like in Deng's China.

Lotus is a prostitute living in the slums of Shenzhen, China, having left the village she was born in to try to avoid village gossip and make a life for herself. This book details her life and the people in it - her fellow prostitutes, potential boyfriends, family members back home. She struggles with faith, the expensive barriers to social mobility, feelings of self-worth, and ideas of independence in this
Mar 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
A prostitute w/ heart of gold who falls in love with a nice dude who treats her right? If this is a fresh concept to you, you may like this book!

Oof. What a disappointment. The prose was pretty stale—maybe this is a translation issue? I hope this is a translation issue—and the book seems to not know whether it's a social commentary on China's treatment of prostitutes, an erotic romance, or some combination of the two? And that'd be great, if it succeeded at either. I was pretty surprised this w
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An innocent young migrant worker in 1990s Shenzhen sinks into a life of prostitution, and gradually transcends her fate. There are many such stories, and this one doesn't break new ground in that regard. The novel paints a fairly detailed picture of the underbelly of Chinese society, with an ensemble of women, each of whom has her own story of how she arrived in that position, and a photographer who quit the business world to document the lives of China's sex workers. Much detail is given to des ...more
Kate Walton
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: china, fiction
This had potential and started strong, but I found myself growing uninterested with the book as it turned into a love story about who Lotus would or would not choose. Not to mention the too-easy-ending of how supposedly she has escaped prostitution and been redeemed as a teacher, now a valuable member of society. Too many cliches, including the wise old religious figures who guides her to a decision, for this to be a great book.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Sydney Hzr
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
what a story, what an invisible world
Kathleen Gray
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating tale of a woman in 1990s China trying to navigate the ugly side of a country undergoing major cultural and economic change. This is all the better, I think, for the fact that Zhang has bravely revealed her own family history. Lotus is a woman to be admired for her tenacity in the face of a just dreadful situation. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. THis is an admirable debut from an author I hope writes more fiction.
Jesse Field
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: story
Early in *Lotus,* the novel’s main character, Bing, thinks to himself, “Commercialization and modernity had eaten away China’s romantic edge.” Local author Zhang Lijia seems keen to bring the romance back.

She brings us a classic tale: Lotus, a poor young woman from Sichuan now working as a prostitute in Shenzhen, meets Bing, a divorced 40-something with a penchant for photographing Shenzhen prostitutes. Bing is instantly smitten, but Lotus, having learned the hardness of the world, treads lightl
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lotus follows a young migrant girl from a rural village who finds herself turning to prostitution to not only stay in Shenzhen, but to also support her family back in Sichuan.

The book portrays the working "ji" (a term for prosititutes) as women who have all one way or another fallen into the sex trade because it is a lucrative way of supporting themselves or their families. The women are victims, but their boss, Moon, does not force them into their work, instead she provides a safe environment
Fleurtje Eliza
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting story making me as a reader feel that these characters were real. There were normal, real emotions: confusions, struggles to make a better life for either a loved one or for one self, hope, love, guilt, shame.

I am looking forward to another book by this author.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book.
'Lotus' is a buildungsroman of a young woman from present-day China. With her mother dead and her father living as an abusive drunk, Lotus dreams of a better life and leaves her rural village to seek work in one of the large factories on the coast. Nearly all of her money goes home to care for her younger brother, who also dreams of leaving the village and enrolling in college. When a fire breaks out at the factory, she does not return home but remains in the city and finds work as a ji, a prost ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lotus is the nom de guerre of a young woman from rural China, who left the village to seek better employment in the factories. On her deathbed, her mother had told her to take care of her younger brother; she intends to make money to support the family and send her brother to high school and university. After her cousin dies in a factory fire- the building locked to prevent workers from escaping- she moves on to the city. Here she soon finds herself working as a ji- a sex worker- in a low rent m ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
I enjoyed Lotus but it wasn't love at first sight. I had a hard time getting into the prose - Zhang's writing style isn't experimental or dramatic, but it took a while to align the way my mind moves with her words. Once I did I found myself drawn into the story of Lotus, a prostitute inspired by the secret life of the author's grandmother, and photojournalist Bing.

The style is simple and belies the well-laid out plot and deep characterization at work. We meet characters as whole people and learn
Jennifer Lin
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Let me start by saying one of my least-favorite movies is "Pretty Woman." I hate the message. Prostitute finds love, saved by wealthy Prince Charming. Yuck.
So it was with some trepidation that I started reading Lotus, the debut novel of Beijing-based journalist Lijia Zhang, which features as its main character a migrant "ji" or prostitute in the boom city of Shenzhen. But oh my, how Lotus delivers a wallop.
Set in China in the early 1990s, Lotus reveals so much about the stratification of Chine
Linda Zagon
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I would like to thank NetGalley and Henry & Holt & Co. for the ARC of "Lotus" by Lijia Zhang. The author gives a historical perspective of China, the poverty and politics. I found the novel intriguing and I would recommend it. Lotus is the main character and represents many of the young girls leaving their home villages, and heading towards the main cities. The opportunities to make a living are scarce. Some girls work in factories in terrible conditions, and for very little money. Other ...more
Laura Gelinas
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
4.5 stars for Lotus!!

"Lotus still held the coin as she walked down the hill. She decided that she wouldn't use her name, Xiangzhu, Fragrant Bamboo, anymore. From now on, she would simply be known as Lotus. "The lotus grows out of the mud yet remains pure and unstained"

There's something so magical about the life and influences that the story of Lotus brings. Set in modern day China, Lotus flees the rural farm life in favor of a bigger city after her mother dies, leaving her to tend to her younge
Aug 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
It started out as a 3-star read. Average style, average characters, average story. Then it dropped to 2 stars when it became evident that it is the umpteenth telling of the 'big hearted courtesan finds big hearted man who saves her from her sinful life and gives her life changing goals'. After a while I found that the novel was actually a social commentary essay turned into fiction, so it elevated it back to 3 stars, and it stayed there till the end. The problem was, that while the social commen ...more
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I listened to this in audio and it took me a while to get used to the speech patterns. At the beginning of each chapter there was a saying which the reader first read in Chinese, then translated. I found that hearing the Chinese and the translation helped put my mind in a place more comfortable with the characters and places. The book grew on me as I listened. In the context of the story of Lotus, a young woman who ends up working as a prostitute in a big city far from her rural home, you begin ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian-lit, china
A friend once told me that when in doubt, go for the higher grade/rating. So I went for 4 stars. Though this book was problematic, I did enjoy it.

I know the writing style won't be for everyone. I felt that the parts about prostitution and migrant workers were pedantic and inserted awkwardly. The book is also marketed (from the blurb) as a romantic novel for the contemporary audience, perhaps as a way to mask the historical allusions and somewhat heavy and controversial topic(s), which sometimes
Vanessa (V.C.)
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lotus is by no means surprising: it was honestly very predictable, as if it was a story that I had read not only once before, but more times than I can count. While the characters were likeable and it was overall such an engrossing and immersive read, it bordered on self-indulgent. It was too long, longer than it needed to be for the story that it was. It should have been half as long. At a whopping 375 pages, while there was a lot in plot, character development, backstory, and angst, it was mos ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an ambitious novel about prostitution in the greater context of a migrant worker economy in a post-Tiananmen Square (post-idealism?) China. The perspective alternates between Lotus, a young woman from the countryside who moves to the city originally for a factory job, and Bing, a middle-aged failed business man and now freelance photographer. The author successfully situates two full characters in a novel working through questions of who deserves dignity and fulfillment in labor, what do ...more
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: just-ok
This is one of those books that I find really hard to rate. Like I couldn't really tell if I liked it or not. There are parts that bored me a bit while some parts I enjoyed so much. Lately I have been reading Asian-related novels and I think this is the first novel I've read about China with a lot of *almost* detailed sex scenes, hahah! I loved learning new things about other Asian countries (being Asian myself) and this book sure has a lot of interesting information about China. There are just ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Probably a 4.5 in terms of enjoyment. I finished it and said out loud "wow, that was really good."

It's an easy read but not necessarily a super quick one; I admit to speed reading through several parts because it felt slightly too long, mostly because of the dialogue. Having said that though, I finished this having learned an impressive amount about the Chinese sex industry and overall economy/recent economic history, exploitation of Chinese migrant workers, and regional Chinese culture while s
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Around the Year i...: Lotus, by Lijia Zhang 2 15 Jan 25, 2017 05:38AM  

I am a rocket-factory-worker turned writer and social commentator. I grew up at a worker’s residential compound in Nanjing, on the bank of Yangtze River. Excelling at school, I dreamed of going to university and becoming a journalist and a writer. But at 16, I was taken out of school and put to work at my mother’s factory that produced inter-continental missiles, capable of reaching North America.
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“In the eyes of Buddha, there are no evil people, only people who don't yet have light in their hearts.” 0 likes
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