Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

I finally got around to reading this book that I rescued off the street from someone’s discard pile last year, as I prepared to make my own discard pile. It’s a great look at the lives of girls/women who migrate from village to the city of Dongguan to live in dorms and do assembly line work in factories for eleven hours a day. The best parts were the deep exploration of the stories of certain girls she befriended, Chunming and Min most of all, but also side tangents with the woman who learns English like a machine, or women who disappear quickly without further followups. The blasé attitude about corruption and kickbacks, the topsy-turviness of the young bringing envelopes of cash back to their elders in villages, the cut-throat attitude and knowledge that your friends today could be completely lost to you tomorrow. A typical observation in the fact that Chunming’s boss cut her commission so she basically quit working for him except kept drawing a paycheck. “It was classic Chinese behavior on all sides: He didn’t tell her why he cut her commissions. She didn’t tell him that she had quit his company.”

Less interesting were the interludes where the author tracks down her own Chinese heritage.