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The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices Hardcover – October 8, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0375422010 ISBN-10: 0375422013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1988, Xinran (ne Xue Hue) was selected to work in state media and ended up at the Nanjing radio station, where she began broadcasting "Words on the Night Breeze" a year later. The show featured letters and calls from ordinary women discussing their problems, and was hugely successful and revelatory, as women had few avenues, public or private, for talking about their lives, which were frequently grim and often harrowing. Xinran quit the show in 1995 to try to help her listeners directly, but by 1997 she had burned out. She persuaded the radio station authorities to let her travel to England, where she began teaching Chinese, met and married English book agent Toby Eady and wrote this memoir of her experiences on the program, including a compendium of some of the most painful of the "Night Breeze" stories. She presents narratives from women who live "in emotionless political marriages" and those, the majority, who struggle "amid poverty and hardship." They have commonly experienced sexual abuse: rape, frequently gang rape. Apparently designed to bring the women's horrific stories to light, the book doesn't do enough to situate them clearly in the context of the show as a state-produced product, or within Xinran's own difficulties in processing and presenting the material on the air (or in this book). The results will leave readers sympathetic to the grave enormity of the women's circumstances, but-due perhaps to minor translation problems and Xinran's lingering political worries-somewhat confused about how Xinran tried to deal with their plights.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

In 1989, Xinran, a Beijing journalist, began broadcasting a nightly program on state radio that was devoted entirely to personal affairs—a radical concept in Communist China. In response, she received thousands of letters from women, many with questions about sexuality; one woman wondered "why her heart beat faster when she accidentally bumped into a man on the bus." Eventually, Xinran persuaded her superiors to let her share some of these letters on the air, and in this groundbreaking book, written after she moved to London, in 1997, she has also included stories that didn't make it past government censors. A teen-ager commits suicide after learning that a neighbor has seen her boyfriend kiss her forehead; a university student speaks casually of becoming a "personal secretary," or mistress, to a rich man; a Kuomintang general's daughter goes mad after witnessing the torture of the family that sheltered her. This intimate record reads like an act of defiance, and the unvarnished prose allows each story to stand as testimony.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (October 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375422013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422010
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Very draining stories.
The true stories of these women can be overwhelming and will stay with you and affect the way you see the world.
Don't get this book if you want to read a collection of happy stories - this will only make you cry.
K. Maxwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By NoBooksNoLife on September 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Riveting anecdotes from ordinary women in China who usually go unheard or supressed in the public forum and unnoticed in history. Their experiences are all the more shocking because they're not intended to be--the pain, waste, sadness and sacrifice in their lives underscore the turmoil of China's recent past and volatile present. For students of China, and anyone visiting or doing business with China, as well as for avid readers of all persuasions, READ THIS BOOK NOW, and keep a watchful eye on developments in China. I had frankly decided to read no more of the 'my-family-suffered-in-China-and-I-survived' books (of which there are so many excellent ones), but when I heard Xinran in a TV interview describe how she came to write this book, I became curious. When I started reading it, I couldn't put it down except to dry my tears.

I would also recommend: Kristof and Wudunn's CHINA WAKES; Anchee Min's RED AZALEA; Adeline Yen Mah's FALLING LEAVES; Jung Chang's WILD SWANS; Mo Yan's RED SORGHUM; Dai Sijie's BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS; and anything by Ha Jin.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By J. Marren VINE VOICE on May 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
This startling collection of stories offers a remarkable insight into the lives of women in the country that threatens to become the most powerful in the world in the 21st century. Communism promised equality for all in China, but like all political systems it is no match for traditions and customs that have lasted for thousands of years. These stories painfully explore what happens when the modern and the traditional collide, crushing women in the middle.
Living in a culture where revealing the most personal aspects of our lives on TV is a daily occurance, it is hard to envision how revolutionary Xinran's radio show "Words on the Night Breeze" was in China. For the first time, women had an anonymous way to tell their stories to the world, and what spilled out was heartbreaking. There were stories of true disaster, like the mothers who suffered through a devastating earthquake and watched their families swallowed up whole. But these things happen in every country. Much more disturbing to me were the stories of arranged marriages by party officials--in this nation of "comrades," a woman still has no choice but to stay with a husband who is lord and master, and treats her much as her female ancestors must have been treated long ago. Or the story of the young girl who is abused for years by her father--when her mother finds out about it she is told to put up with it to avoid angering him! Stories about the massive cruelties of the Cultural Revolution abound--I never cease being surprised and shocked at the pain this country visited on itself during the rule of Mao in the 1960's.
Surely things are changing, one asks. But after reading about the university student I wasn't so sure. Women in university are the cream of the crop.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "cerena" on February 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Once I started reading, I could not stop until I finished it. The true stories of the lives, experiences, pain and suffering of the women described by the author are unforgettable. I am a second generation Chinese American, raised in Chinatown in Los Angeles. I was raised watching movies from China and Hong Kong where the stories were always about the suffering of unnoticed, unappreciated women. I have always been grateful that I was not born in China. Members of my family had to live through the nightmare of the "Cultural Revolution" and my aunt who was persecuted and sent to the countryside for "reeducation" because she was the daughter of a merchant, died as a result of starvation and neglect.
The only criticism I have of the book is the relentlessness of the sadness and misery of these women's lives. It makes the reading hard work. I hope the author is encouraged to share more true stories that are not always so tragic and depressing.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By RS on December 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you are not moved by this collection of true stories, check your pulse and your breathing. Our author was the first ever woman radio talk show host in China. She piloted a first ever late-night "live" call-in program dedicated only to women's issues (a subject that was more or less ignored in China prior to the 1990's).

Each chapter is a separate true story of the pain and suffering of life for women, under the dictatorship of the "beloved Chairman Mao". Most are from letters written in by listeners or calls made into the live broadcast. One chapter is on the author's own reflections of her life.

Written after getting out of China (she now lives in England) in a frank, simple, open and honest style (translated brilliantly from Chinese) each chapter opens up layer upon layer of sexual abuse, torment and feminine tragedy. Easy to read, hard to put down and impossible to forget... I hope all my children will read this book to better understand this truly foreign culture and what they have gone through to get to where they are now. Reading this book has helped me better understand some of the complexities of the Chinese culture, at least from a "recent historical" point of view, both masculine and feminine.

Great stories by a brave author. I'm sure this book is not available in any bookstore in China! Maybe one day....
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