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Good Women of China: Hidden Voices (original 2002; edition 2003)

by 1958- Xinran

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889309,938 (4)70
Member:duaney_h
Title:Good Women of China: Hidden Voices
Authors:1958- Xinran
Info:Vintage Books USA (2003), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, Acquired before 2009, Read before 2009, Read in 2012
Rating:***1/2
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The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran (2002)

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English (22)  German (2)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
During the late eighties and early nineties, Xinran presented a late-night programme on Chinese radio in which she invited women to come forward and tell their own stories, with the idea of breaking down some of the barriers that make it difficult to talk about gender issues in China. The book is a small selection from the many stories she was able to gather during that time, obviously put together both with a journalist's eye for what makes a good story and with the didactic intention of covering a suitable range of "key topics" to give her readers some perspective on the main issues affecting women in Chinese society.

As should be obvious (but isn't necessarily, until someone like Xinran comes along and points it out), China is a vast, complicated and diverse country that has gone through huge changes in a very short time, and there's no way you can get a real idea of what life is like there from listening to the accounts of a handful of individuals. The dozen or so stories we look at in detail in this book help, but it's still only scratching the surface. Xinran's point is of course not so much to tell outsiders what China is like, but rather to show Chinese women that talking about what's happened in their lives is a first step towards making things better.

What struck me about the stories? Firstly, and maybe most obviously, there's an element of the "banality of evil". The bad things that happen to Chinese women are essentially the same bad things that happen to the weaker members of society everywhere, especially in times of war and unrest. Sadly, sexual violence, incest, wife-battering and economic hardship are not exclusive to any region or type of society. Then of course there are the specifically Chinese elements. Women seem to have suffered disproportionately in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, and Xinran illustrates this with many examples (including her own experience as a little girl sent to a special "black" school because she was the child of bourgeois parents). As we all know, China since the revolution has been a place where women work in "traditionally male" roles to an extent that's often surprising to outsiders, but there's still a "glass ceiling" in place (Xinran also tells the story of the educated young women who joined the revolution only to be assigned to the task of becoming replacement wives for party leaders who had been separated from their original families by the war). The state interferes in sexuality and private life to an extent that most of us would find difficult to believe, whilst cultural inhibitions make it difficult to talk openly about sexual matters. Xinran also makes it clear that we have to remember what a vast and diverse place China is: in a final chapter, she makes a short visit to a village in a semi-desert part of western China, where civilisation has had essentially no impact on day-to-day life, and women exist in conditions that make even the really bad things she describes elsewhere look positively benign. Yet those women, unlike any others she has interviewed, make a point of telling her that they are happy.

I'm glad I read this: it's a well-written, very carefully constructed book, and I think I learnt something from it, even if it is only scratching the surface. ( )
  thorold | Dec 3, 2015 |
The stories should shake you to your very core...the female voices of China are given a well deserved opportunity to speak. ( )
  kchung_kaching | Sep 1, 2014 |
I've read this book with great interest. First of all, it is set in a part of the world that's very foreign and I always like to read more about it, to get to know it better. I hope one day I'll be able to visit.
The second reason why I liked this book so much, is that it covers a subject that is not common at all, and that it has been written with a, for Chinese measures, rare frankness.

It is very hard to pick a favorite, or even to say I have a favorite, for all stories are good. The ones I liked best though are: The Scavenger Woman and The Guomindang General's Daughter.
The whole book got under my skin, where it'll linger on for some time. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Jul 28, 2014 |
Contemporary China as seen through the eyes of some of its women as seen yet again through the eyes and ears of a radio talk show host who looks at the lives of women. ( )
  bradleybleck | Jun 4, 2013 |
Xinran was the presenter of a radio show in China, during which she would ask women to call her and tell her about themselves. Over the years, she gathered many stories of Chinese women, and this book contains fifteen of them, including her own. It's a diverse collection of stories, including the stories of a lesbian woman, of loveless forced marriages, of hopeless love stories, of women who were raped as children...

They're eye-opening, saddening, horrifying. Xinran's matter of fact tone -- though no doubt partly due to the translation -- doesn't do anything to hide that. I wouldn't say that any story in here is actually a happy one.

Worth reading, though, yes. If you want to learn about Chinese women through the eyes of a Chinese woman, The Good Women of China will definitely help, while at the same time it doesn't dump information on you in big blobs -- the idea is to give these women of China a voice, really, not to educate the West. Xinran doesn't just speak of other women, and her own story runs through it all, with her own thoughts and reactions contextualising the stories. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Xinranprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Formo, ToneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langhaeuser, SigridÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pape, Sofia PascualTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pascual, Ana SofíaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Probst, Marie-OdileTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rijsewijk, Erica vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solé, XeviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For every Chinese woman
and for my son PanPan
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At nine o'clock on 3 November 1999, I was on my way home from teaching an evening class at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran presented a radio programme in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous through the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. Centuries of obedience to their fathers, husbands and sons, followed by years of political turmoil had made women terrified of talking openly about their feelings. Xinran won their trust and, through her compassion and ability to listen, became the first woman to hear their true stories. This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country. Through the vivid intimacy of her writing, the women's voices confide in the reader, sharing their deepest secrets for the first time. Their stories changed Xinran's understanding of China forever. Her book will reveal the lives of Chinese women to the West as never before.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099440784, Paperback)

For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran presented a radio programme in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous through the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. Centuries of obedience to their fathers, husbands and sons, followed by years of political turmoil had made women terrified of talking openly about their feelings. Xinran won their trust and, through her compassion and ability to listen, became the first woman to hear their true stories. This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country. Through the vivid intimacy of her writing, the women's voices confide in the reader, sharing their deepest secrets for the first time. Their stories changed Xinran's understanding of China forever. Her book will reveal the lives of Chinese women to the West as never before.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:39 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran presented a radio programme in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous through the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. Centuries of obedience to their fathers, husbands and sons, followed by years of political turmoil had made women terrified of talking openly about their feelings. Xinran won their trust and, through her compassion and ability to listen, became the first woman to hear their true stories. This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country. Through the vivid intimacy of her writing, the women's voices confide in the reader, sharing their deepest secrets for the first time.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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