The best books about Asian women

Sheridan Prasso Author Of The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, & Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient
By Sheridan Prasso

The Books I Picked & Why

Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China

By Leta Hong Fincher

Book cover of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China

Why this book?

This book by the leading expert on China’s feminist movement speaks to the modern-day realities of women in China – where the promise of the Communist revolution to deliver gender equality has been betrayed. Today’s women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of the rights and gains they achieved early on. The structural discrimination against women in all sectors, from politics to business to relationships, is not easily overturned.



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Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

By Leslie T. Chang

Book cover of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

Why this book?

A portrait of some of the millions of workers who toil in factories in southern China, most of whom are young women. They leave behind their families and work long hours for little money in boring, repetitive assembly line jobs, making mobile phones, toys, purses and other items for the rest of the world. The realities and challenges for the young women behind the goods we buy daily make this a compelling read.


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Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha

By Lesley Downer

Book cover of Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha

Why this book?

By reading this actual account by a woman who became a geisha herself, you will come to understand how far from reality the fictional book Memoirs of a Geisha, written by a man, really was. This is the best-ever portrait of this world and the women – far from the pining, love-besotted servants – who inhabit it.


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The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices

By Xinran

Book cover of The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices

Why this book?

This collection of hidden testimonies of women in China, based on call-ins to a radio show in the 199Os, depicts what women think and feel about their world and their realities. We hear women speaking for the first time about forced marriages, poverty, persecution, love – and their triumphs. It is key to understanding the thoughts and feelings behind what we think we know.


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Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China

By Sterling Seagrave

Book cover of Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China

Why this book?

This book takes what you think you know about China’s Last Empress, Cixi, and turns it upside down. Far from the monster created by puerile Western conquerors to justify their imperial domination over China, this historical account uncovers the reality behind the woman who held great power in China. This reality is core to the destruction of the Dragon Lady stereotype in Western culture that I lay out in my book.


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