About the Book: Factory Girls (Spiegel & Grau, 4 August 2009)
This is a non-fiction account of female migrant workers in China who go from rural villages to the industrial area of Guangdong to work in factories.
What I Think
I'm not a big non-fiction fan. The books are usually very dry and despite how interested I might be in the subject matter, I can't remember what I've read from one page to another. This book, however, flows well and is an easy read. Each chapter focuses on a particular issue (i.e. dating, speaking English, money, etc.) and the girls' stories are centered around this topic. By choosing to relay the stories this way, and not in chronological order, it was at times a little confusing.
Chang put a lot of family history into this book and to be honest, I'm not sure why. I can only imagine that it was to paint a larger picture of China and what the country and its people have been through in the last century, but it felt shoe-horned in. Also, these chapters were the longest in the book and not the most interesting. I feel that Chang should've written a separate book about her family.
The main focus is on two girls, Min and Chunming, and stories of various other girls and their plights are interwoven. In Chang's attempt to remain neutral, there is a distinct lack of judgement and/or opinion and in this case it comes across as unfeeling. If anything, the book is more positive than negative and given the girls' somewhat dire situations, this seems wrong. Is this a feminist book about women finding their own way in the world in a society where women are generally overlooked? Could it be that this new-found independence is still better than being trapped at home in rural China?
About the Author
Leslie T. Chang is a graduate of Harvard University and was a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in Beijing. She is married to Peter Hessler, who also writes about China. She lives in Colorado.