Wow. I wasn't all that far into The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices when I started thinking that: "Wow." The author of the book, Xinran, hosted a Chinese radio program, "Words on the Night Wind," for several years, focusing on what it was like to be a woman in China. Life is likely difficult enough for any journalist in China, with the extreme care necessary not to cross Chinese Communist Party doctrime; Xinran says it is one of the professions with the lowest life expectancy in China up there with police officer and chemical engineer. But despite being hemmed around by rules, she was able to collect amazing stories of women in situations no one else wanted to talk about. Women watching their children die in buildings collapsed in an earthquake. Women who scavenge junk and live in shanties constructed of these found materials. Lesbians in a country where homosexuality is "a forbidden subject under media regulations." Women driven to madness by interrogations and mistreatment based on who their parents or grandparents were, and women who survived similar mistreatment with no external change. Parents separated from children and lovers from one another because of Communist Party decrees. University students and fashionable businesswomen who live near-Westernized lives but still deal with men who apply old-fashioned standards in sizing up a woman. Arranged marriages, child sexual abuse, religion, poverty -- it's astounding how many issues are touched on in fifteen chapters, each telling one woman's story except for the final one which focuses on women's conditions in the tiny rural village of Shouting Hill, where people live in caves in the side of the hill and women use (and re-use) leaves for sanitary napkins.
Xinran moved to England in 1997 with "the idea that I might find a way of describing the lives of Chinese women to people in the West." She and translator Esther Tyldesley have done an impressive job of that, showing both the samenesses and differences, and I think as many people as possible should hear these stories.