Qian Xiaohong is born in a sleepy Hunan village, where the new China rush toward development is a distant rumor. A buxom, naïve 16-year-old, she joins the mass migration to the boomtown of Shenzhen where she navigates dangerous encounters with ruthless bosses, jealous wives, sympathetic hookers and corrupt policemen. Moving…
Why read it?
2 authors picked Northern Girls as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
I really enjoyed this bracing and saucy novel as a cheery counterpoint to the many much bleaker artistic works about migrant life. It charts the life and times of the young women who journeyed to the economic heartlands of South China in search of work during the 1990s and early 2000s.
The protagonist is Xiaohong, a young woman so mesmerizingly voluptuous that everyone in the novel, from its narrator down to the most incidental character, is hopelessly distracted by her bosom. At times, I did find this metaphor for personal capital in a precarious era a bit overblown.
A post-70s generation Chinese authoress who capitalized on the big international book deals cleared for her by the commercial success of Shanghai Baby and Beijing Doll, and who likewise has developed an unsavory reputation among Communist authorities, Sheng Keyi has published many heralded (and banned) books. But her crowning achievement is 2012’s Northern Girls, about young female migrant workers who leave the countryside for the big city but fall into the trappings of prostitution. Unlike the memoirs penned by her counterparts, this is an obviously fictional story that falls under the sub-genre of “magical realism”. I’d suggest reading…
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