A spirited memoir by a former Chinese factory worker who grew up in Nanjing, participated in the Tiananmen Square protest, and ended up an international journalist.
Although this work's story line and political analysis will not surprise even the novice reader on China, it's still a revealing book. Zhang (coauthor, China Remembers), an internationally published journalist living in Beijing and here writing in English, looks back on her youth in China to share discerning and acerbic vignettes of family life, shop-floor politics, sexual encounters, and Dickensian types in a Nanjing factory in the 1980s, ending with organizing demonstrations of Nanjing workers to support the 1989 Beijing protests. Her ambitions to learn English and go abroad were thwarted when her mother, being only realistic, forced Zhang to leave school and inherit her guaranteed factory position through the "replace job" system. Her mother, Zhang shows, was herself deprived of happiness by a thoughtless husband and Socialist China's social constrictions. The warmest character she presents is her grandmother, an emotional support, great cook, and source of traditional lore. Zhang's lively though painful love life, explicitly described, shows that romance survives even under authoritarianism. The reader is left wondering what happened between 1989 and the present. All libraries wanting to supplement coverage for the Beijing Olympics could well consider this volume.-Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL