Xinran: The Voice of the Good Women of China
The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices is one of those books you just can’t put down. Part memoir, part history, part tragedy, part social documentary, Good Women is the first book by Xinran, a journalist who hosted a nightly radio show in China called Words on the Night Breeze. The show debuted in 1989 on Radio Nanjing and ran for seven years. As the first show in China to give voice to the everyday, personal issues of women, Words had millions of faithful listeners. Xinran received hundreds of calls and letters every day, in which women from all walks of life poured out their stories. Xinran often wept.
These stories make up Good Women. So important were they to Xinran that she actually put her life on the line for the sake of the book. When she first moved to London from China in 1999, she was mugged on her way home from London University where she was teaching at the time. She struggled desperately with the assailant, refusing to give up her bag, which contained her only copy of the book’s original manuscript. While she admits today that “of course, life is more important than a book,” she insists that in many ways, this book was not only her own life, but also a testimony to the lives of all the women in China who had been silent for far too long …
Xinran bears witness to stories of incest, rape, kidnapping, brutality, suffering, torture, and neglect. She writes of a young girl whose only escape from her father’s horrific, incestuous demands was to die in a hospital. She writes of mothers who lost their entire families to a violent earthquake, who have re-created a large, makeshift family filled with earthquake orphans. She writes of a woman trapped in a loveless, binding marriage to an abusive man too powerful to leave. She writes of a woman who spent more than four decades searching for her young love, only to find – upon what should have been a joyous reunion – that he was married with a family. She writes of the women in a far-off village that time forgot whose lives are filled with suffering—they work all day from sunup to sundown, then must “service” the men in every way, sometimes as a shared wife to numerous men, and bear children endlessly year after year after year. Their only joy is receiving an egg mixed with water and sugar, upon the birth of a son – and yet they are the only women among the countless women Xinran interviews who claim they are “happy.” …[click here for more]
Author interview: The Bloomsbury Review, May/June 2003
Readers: Young Adult, Adult