This is another book about people who are not like me. I do not live in the Pearl River Delta, I am definitely not young enough to work in a factory for rather insane hours. But I love learning about people who are not like me, about places that are not like where I live.
Factory Girls is a profile of a handful of teenagers and women in their 20s who have emigrated from the countryside to work in the manufacturing jobs near Hong Kong. This is a world where everything moves very, very fast – so fast, in fact, that I’m sure that even though this book is only 10 years old, it is probably out of date. Ties are shallow, and society is only slowly adapting. But people keep coming because they can make money, crazy money compared to what they’re used to. It upends traditional familial relationships.
The author also uses it as a way to explore her own family’s history – how her grandmother and her children fled China during the Communist – KMT civil war that followed WWII, how they ended up in Taiwan and how her parents and their siblings came to America.
These stories are lenses that show how China has changed over the last 80 years, the twists and turns that its society has taken, from pre-Mao to the exponential growth of capitalism.