Factory Girls by Leslie Chang

Factory Girls: From Village To City in a Changing China

  • Book:  “Factory Girls: From Village To City In a Changing China”
  • Author:  Leslie T. Chang
  • Publisher:  Spiegel & Grau, 2009

As the name of the book evidently implies – “Factory Girls” was based primarily on the life of young migrants in China.  Leslie Chang, the author of this book, is a Chinese-American journalist who was born in U.S. and had spent many years of her adult life living and reporting on China.  This book is her first, award-winning, nonfictional novel.

While working on the “Factory Girls”, the author devoted several years, hanging out and observing the life of different, mostly teenaged girls who, at a very young age, left their villages behind to come to a big city and try their luck in finding a good job.  Hence, the primary focus of this book is to report on the experience of these young migrants, including their struggles, successes, dreams and desires, their behavior and attitude, ambitions and setbacks.

Though it’s about the life of China’s underdog, the book does not reveal hopelessness or a bleak worldview, on the contrary – it is full of hope and optimism that can be traced through the lives of its two main characters.  While both of the heroines started on an equal footing, having absolutely nothing and no one to rely on, they quickly progressed and raised up to better conditions and higher salaries, only due to their own, personal hard work.

In addition, the author has spent much of her time visiting the actual factories where thousands of migrants work and live, while she observed their strict rules and codes of conduct.  Some of these factories had more than 70,000 workers, that the author described as “mini-cities”, which are completely self-reliant and self-sufficient.

This book was written with empathy and non-judgement and instead of projecting doom, it is full of inspiration for the future of Chinese people.  It is very interesting and easy to read, and will serve as an insightful guide to anyone looking to learn more about the Chinese culture and especially its young, rural population in particular.

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