Thursday, May 5, 2016

Review: Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang

Title: Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
Author: Leslie T. Chang
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publish Date: October 7, 2008
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta.

As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life—a world where nearly everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place. Throughout this riveting portrait, Chang also interweaves the story of her own family’s migrations, within China and to the West, providing historical and personal frames of reference for her investigation."

My Two Cents:

"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 places that I know little to nothing about. I love getting a glimpse at how others live. Although, I love international news and politics, I had never thought about who exactly is working at all of those huge Chinese factories that so many of the goods that we use come from. This book definitely gave me an appreciation for the choices that I had as a young 20 something year old. These are not the same choices that the women in this book had.

The book follows several individuals throughout the book. I thought that this really worked well because it allowed me to step in their shoes and understand what they were going through. Perhaps more importantly, it put a human face on the factory workers and the often dismal conditions that must both work and live in. This was a fascinating look at a small facet of the world and will appeal to those who like seeing the world through someone else's eyes.


1 comment:

  1. I remember when this book came out years ago. I thought, someday when i have the time. I still don't have the time, but i think i might give it a go on audio. Glad you rated it so highly.


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