Xinran The Good Women of China

ISBN 13: 9780701173456

The Good Women of China

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9780701173456: The Good Women of China
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For seven years, Xinran Xue hosted a daily radio phone-in programme for Radio Nanjing during which she discussed women's lives, and invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast between 10 and 12 at night, Words on the Night Breeze soon became famous all over China for its powerful, honest discussions of what it means to be a woman in today's China. It started in 1990, a time when China seemed to be 'opening up', both for the Chinese and for the world. Xinran's programme revealed aspects of women's lives that had never been talked about in public before. She felt as if she was opening a tiny window into a huge fortress whose inhabitants had never before communicated with the outside world. Soon she was receiving over two hundred letters a day from women telling her their stories. She realised that she knew far less than she had thought about what it means to be a Chinese woman and embarked on a journey of discovery to collect their stories. The stories presented here tell of almost inconceivable suffering: rape, sexual abuse, the separation of parents from their children, the suppression of human emotion in order to survive the Communist regime - never before have the tortured souls of Chinese women been laid so bare. And yet this is also a book about love - about how, despite cruelty, despite politics, the female urge to nurture and cherish remains. And then there is Xinran herself: an extraordinary woman who, despite her own unhappy past, has given her life to saving the stories of Chinese women from oblivion,.

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Review:

Xinran's The Good Women of China continues the tradition of Chinese women writing in recent years. Jung Chang, in Wild Swans, and Aiping Mu, in Vermilion Gate, for example, have written of the effect of recent Chinese history on themselves and their families. However, both of these books, and others like them, have been by women from the upper echelons of Chinese society. What of ordinary Chinese women? How are their voices to be heard?

Xinran worked for eight years as a well-known presenter at a Chinese radio station. As a public figure, she received many letters. Most of them were from women. Moved by the stories she was hearing in the letters, she decided to go in search of more of the truths about Chinese women's lives. What she found was terrible suffering; women who had endured lengthy sexual abuse during the Cultural Revolution, women whose wretched poverty was made more miserable by the dictates of a male-centred society, women who had had their children taken from them or who had lost them in earthquakes and other natural disasters. And, amid all the suffering, she found their capacity to endure and somehow survive.

Xinran is not a diffident or modest journalist. The reader gets to hear quite a lot of people in the course of her book, telling her how honest and humane and famous she is. This is, unsurprisingly, exasperating. However, someone more modest, and with a less robust sense of her own importance and the importance of what she was doing, would not have gathered the material that she has done. She would not have gone to those places she needed to go in order to record the stories in her book. The voices of the many women to whom she listened would not have been heard. --Nick Rennision

Review:

'The voices are poetic in their simplicity and honesty. I feel privileged and humbled to have been witness to the lives of these good women.' -- AMY TAN

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