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Title:  The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices

Author:  Xinran

Published:  October 8, 2002

Page Count:  256

Genre:  Nonfiction

My Rating:  4/5

For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran hosted a radio program in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous throughout the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. Centuries of obedience to their fathers, husbands and sons, followed by years of fear under Communism, had made women terrified of talking openly about their feelings. Xinran won their trust and, through her compassion and ability to listen, became the first woman to hear their true stories.

This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country. Through the vivid intimacy of her writing, these women confide in the reader, sharing their deepest secrets. Whether they are the privileged wives of party leaders or peasants in a forgotten corner of the countryside, they tell of almost inconceivable suffering: forced marriages, sexual abuse, separation of parents from their children, extreme poverty. But they also talk about love — about how, despite cruelty, despite politics, the urge to nurture and cherish remains. Their stories changed Xinran’s understanding of China forever. Her book will reveal the lives of Chinese women to the West as never before.

The Good Women of China is truly a remarkable book.  What Xinran has done is given a voice to so many women who were unable to use their own voices to tell their stories.  The women Xinran heard from had so many differing experiences, but they all shared the common theme of being oppressed, of having no say in their own lives, and of suffering throughout so much of their lives.  This was an incredibly difficult book for me to read, knowing that what I was reading had actually happened to somebody.  Yet, although it was a difficult read, this book is an important one.  These women experienced more suffering and heartache in their lives than most of us will ever experience (and many of them experienced it in their childhoods or teen years!), and their stories deserve to be heard.

So, I’m glad I read The Good Women of China.  There’s not much else I want to say about this book, honestly, just because I truly appreciated reading it but would rather refrain from any more summaries.  I’d really recommend reading this one – Xinran has done something very important with this book, and it deserves to be noticed.