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"Socialism Is Great!": A Worker's Memoir of the New China Hardcover – April 17, 2008
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“This revealing memoir will have readers rooting for Zhang as she fights her way out of an oppressive system.” (Booklist)
“Beautiful.... A remarkable memoir.... A notable historical document and a vivid, affecting portrait of a young woman's resolve.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Zhang is a clear eyed storyteller…"Socialism Is Great!" is peppered with a teenager's dark humor and bright recollections.” (Kate Silver - Seattle Weekly)
“A sharply observant and admirably crafted memoir. . . . A truly original contribution to our understanding of modern China.” (Jonathan D. Spence)
“A riveting tale.” (Malia Politzer - Wall Street Journal Asia)
“Zhang’s memoir, with its arc of resistance and personal struggle . . . written in fluent English peppered with dated Chinese idioms, begins where those older memoirs leave off. . . . She seems to suggest that in the 1980s, Chinese politics had evolved enough that they could be a quixotic diversion for a restless and headstrong girl.” (Joseph Kahn - The New York Times Book Review)
“A literary gem. . . . Zhang deftly crafts the journey of a whole generation, desperately yearning to break away from the ropes of tradition and living to dream the impossible. It's a book to relish, a volume to cherish and mostly, a life to celebrate.” (Da Chen, author of Colors of the Mountain)
“This affecting record of individual striving and fulfillment reminds us, with humor and insight, how the growth of sensibility in unfavorable circumstances remains one of our most pleasurable literary experiences. Set against China’s breathless recent transformation, "Socialism Is Great!" offers a rare and intimate glimpse of a country and culture that are now reshaping our world.” (Pankaj Mishra, author of An End to Suffering and The Romantics)
“A beautiful memoir. . . . Our current China literature is heavy with victim memoirs, but this is a true tale of aspiration: a young woman coming of age in a nation desperately trying to do the same.” (Peter Hessler, Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker and author of River Town)
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
"Socialism is Great!" is an autobiography spanning a 10 year period of Ms Zhang's young adult life centering in China's ancient capital of Nanjing. On a surface level, it is a story about Lijia, a free spirited young woman coming of age. The book's plot skillfully meanders around both her home life, dominated by a strong mother, and her work place, a munitions factory, whose 'danwei' system keeps her shackled to a monotonous job while denying her the higher education which she desperately seeks. Lijia's heart is fragile, first broken by a handsome young intellectual called Red Rock, and then hurt once more by an older married man. In disillusionment, she spirals down to a series of loveless affairs and one night stands. Unlike her heart, Lijia has a tough skin, and against all obstacles she single-mindedly pursues a dream to better her education, to study and perfect her English (she even hides to study in the factory's garbage dump - the only place to provide her privacy), so she can free herself of her factory confinement and become a journalist.Read more ›
It is a very readable and interesting piece of autobiography, and its readability is largely down to the author's command of English. Normally when `perfect English' is attributed to someone whose first language is not English, there is an implication that we would still know that. Not here. If I had read Socialism Is Great knowing nothing of the author's background I could have believed that she was (somehow) a born Anglophone. In fact she had to struggle, against parental and official opposition, to learn the language, and her success in the matter suggests to me a completely exceptional talent, one she perhaps does not fully recognise in herself.
How the book's title relates to the rest of its content is quite an interesting question. The narrative starts in her impoverished family home in Nanjing, and develops through her unfulfilling early experiences as a factory worker. Obviously this is socialism Chinese-style in action, but although Lijia has plenty to say about that I would not say that her angle on it is mainly political. It's more about the inner struggles of an independent-minded spirit confined in a culture of conformity and conservatism. Towards the end of the book we come to the really political bit, but it is brief, it reads almost like a postscript, and it is tantalisingly incomplete. In 1989 Lijia led a demonstration in Nanjing in support of the rebellion in Beijing's Tienanmen Square in that year.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As an educator teaching in mainland China I found the work illuminating in the context of cultural understanding and mindset that attaches to filial obligations during the span and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Donald Guadagni
Very interesting story but a rather pedestrian way of telling her story.Published 10 months ago by Rebecca
Living in China now, I found answers to many of the curious habits of my Chinese neighbours. The book told an interesting story, but also added some important insights into... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Christina Chandler
I liked this book so much that I was a bit surprised when it was over, I felt like craving for more. Read morePublished on May 30, 2014 by Amazon Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it to be delightful.
I won’t spend my time re-summarizing the plot since many people in their friendly reviews seem to have done... Read more
The book has lots of drama - secret liasions, defiance of authority, a grimy factory, park hideaways, determination and defiance, young love, lost love, sex, a strong main female... Read morePublished on March 5, 2014 by Chris O
This is the author's memoir from her young adult years in the 1980s. Most of the book takes place after Zhang's mother forced her to leave high school and take over her old job at... Read morePublished on February 26, 2014 by M.B.
Socialism is great - A worker's memoir of the new China.
This is the story of struggle of "an ordinary worker from Nanjing's Liming Machinery Manufacture" to... Read more