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The Serenity of Whiteness: Stories By and About Women in Contemporary China Paperback – January 13, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A professor of Anglo-American literature at Beijing's Institute of Foreign Literature here collects 11 tales written after the reforms of 1979 lifted a 30-year ban on the kinds of subjects Americans take for granted: love, marriage, ambition and the role of women in society. Each offers an interesting glimpse into the souls of women living under the emotional and physical privations of communism, but many suffer from a simplistic, aphoristic prose style (whether true to the original or a fault of the translation is unclear) that frequently falls flat in its struggle for mythic resonance. The title story by Gu Ying, about a group of women who come to know each other intimately while confined to a hospital, is by far the best and reveals a strong, sure understanding of human nature. The glossary is helpful but too brief; the introduction (by Catherine Vance Yeh of Harvard) could have usefully provided more information on the Chinese publications in which these stories were originally published and the historical context in which they were written.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

From contemporary Chinese women writers: a powerful but uneven collection of stories unified by unsubtle displeasure with the conditions of women in China. Zhu Hong (The Chinese Western, 1988) selects and translates into English for the first time these 11 tales, most of which appeared in Chinese literary journals or magazines in the 1980's. In her introduction, Catherine Vance Yeh (Harvard) identifies the writers as of an older generation of Chinese women more concerned with traditional socialism than with radical feminism. Examples include ``Guessie Grows Up,'' by Chen Ruiqing, about a beautiful, winsome young Chinese girl shipped off to a labor reform camp during the Cultural Revolution. Her crushed idealism symbolizes a generation of Chinese women's innocence lost. In ``The Loudspeaker,'' Bao Chuan describes the creeping paranoia of village life during the Cultural Revolution--when neighbors ``don't so much as bat an eyelid'' at each other for fear of retribution. In ``Jingjing is Born,'' Gu Ying laments the predetermined fate of a daughter born, symbolically, on the day factional war breaks out in her hometown. Lu Xin'er amplifies state manipulation and indifference to motherhood in ``The Sun Is Not Out Today,'' in which women alternately forced or ordered to have abortions line up in a gloomy, Kafkaesque hospital to await their turns. The overall pall of these stories reflects collective bitterness about lingering feudal prejudice against women in China and Orwellian control of women's private lives. A note of reprieve is struck by Hu Xin's ``Four Women of Forty,'' a bittersweet story of four friends' emotional reunion after 20 years apart. ``Careers, ideals, struggle, love, marriage, family. It is so hard for women,'' writes Hu. ``Questions at every turn. But where are the answers?'' A moving, if relentless, document of Chinese women's lives. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (January 13, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034537097X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345370976
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,536,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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