FACTORY GIRLS by Leslie Chang

A rare non-fiction post from me…

I read about Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, by Leslie Chang, in this week's Politics & Prose newsletter and I thought it looked pretty interesting. [Damn- she is reading there tomorrow at 7 PM. Why are their author events always at the least convenient time of day??? Ugh.] I am fascinated by modern China – how people make a living, what their aspirations are, how the country's manufacturing explosion coexists with its political atmosphere. I am also particularly interested in the perspective of young, professional women.  From Amazon:

Cang [Chang] explores the urban realities and rural roots of a community, until now, as unacknowledged as it is massive–China's 130 million workers whose exodus from villages to factory and city life is the largest migration in history. Chang spent three years following the successes, hardships and heartbreaks of two teenage girls, Min and Chunming, migrants working the assembly lines in Dongguan, one of the new factory cities that have sprung up all over China. The author's incorporation of their diaries, e-mails and text messages into the narrative allows the girls–with their incredible ambition and youth–to emerge powerfully upon the page. Dongguan city is itself a character, with talent markets where migrants talk their way into their next big break, a lively if not always romantic online dating community and a computerized English language school where students shave their heads like monks to show commitment to their studies. A first generation Chinese-American, Chang uses details of her own familys immigration to provide a vivid personal framework for her contemporary observations. A gifted storyteller, Chang plumbs these private narratives to craft a work of universal relevance.

Cory Doctorow reviewed Factory Girls for BoingBoing earlier this month and said, "[T]he 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."

Here is an interview with Leslie Chang from NPR. And here is a positive review from The San Francisco Chronicle, which says "Factory Girls is a keen-eyed look at contemporary Chinese life composed of equal parts of new global realities, timeless stories of human striving and intelligent storytelling at its best."

Anyone out there read this yet?