Leslie T. Chang's Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
is a fascinating ethnography of the young women who labor in the factories of Guangdong, China's richest province, a land of boomtowns where wealth and scams and exploitation and warmth and courage all abound.
Chang is an American-born Chinese writer who won over the confidence of several remarkable young migrant women who came from the distant provinces to work in the factories and find independence, social mobility and status as cash earners. These women experience many setbacks and victories, undergo remarkable personal transformations, and come to lively life under Chang's studious eye.
But Factory Girls is also a memoir of Chang's own family, the Zhangs, migrants who fled China after WWII and the Maoist revolution. Chang and her family are also "migrants," who out-migrated beyond the coastal cities, reinventing themselves in distant America. Chang's camaraderie with the Factory Girls clearly stems in part from this fellow-feeling, this knowing what it means to be from a place but not of it anymore (I'm an immigrant who left the country of my birth, in which my family were also immigrants, so this had all kinds of resonances for me).
In Chang's journey back to her surviving Mainland relatives and her relationship to the Factory Girls of Guangdong we see the inkling of what a new normal might look like, what these remarkable young women might become after the dust settles and they stop reinventing themselves and simple are.
In the meantime, the Factory Girls and their adventures fill the pages of this remarkable book, which chronicles everything from the sleaze of karaoke bars and multi-level direct-sales cults to the heartbreak of romance and speed-dating to the small heroism of the many friendships and noble deeds of the girls of the book.
I must have read fifty books about China this year (I'm working on a novel set partly in China), but this stands out as one of the best.
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
Modern civilization has all but disappeared. It falls to a fearless, dedicated and slap-stick bunch known as Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors to help humanity recover. With help like this, you might be better off on your own! Benjamin Wallace’s first installment in the Duck and Cover series is a quick and witty read. We find America […]
This beautiful collection of all twenty paintings, and eight drawings, assigned to Hieronymus Bosch, may be replacing the Codex Seraphinianus on my coffee table for a bit. These surreal masterpieces by Netherlandish artist Jheronimus van Aken, better known as Hieronymus Bosch, are reproduced beautifully, on lovely paper, and are thoughtfully arranged. Some pieces, such as […]
Is “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” actually about psychedelic drugs, British colonialism, or penis envy? Depends who you ask. At the BBC, Hephzibah Anderson surveys 150 years of weird readings of Lewis Carroll’s classic book. From Anderson’s essay: Re-examining the text, critics found plenty of gynaecological imagery, from the rabbit hole itself to the curtain that […]
If you want a quality vaping experience, it’s usually going to cost you. Vaporizers that deliver a fast, controlled burn will set you back up to $300, which is why the FEZ Vaporizer (now just $99) is an absolute steal.The FEZ dry herb pen does everything that more expensive models handle at a reduced price. It heats up […]
Taking pictures can be challenging. There are a million factors that can influence each shot you take – and unless you’re a trained photographer, you often just focus, click…and cross your fingers.Of course, you can take some of the ambiguity out of your picture-taking with this Hollywood Art Institute Photography Course & Certification package, now […]
Experienced shutterbugs with DSLR cameras have boatloads of lens options for capturing the moment. Unfortunately, smartphone photographers often get stuck with their one crummy lens, which means limited zoom and focus for their final image.Step up your smartphone’s photographic power with the Acesori 5-Piece Smartphone Camera Lens Kit, now just $9.99 in the Boing Boing Store.Magnetic rings easily […]