“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls in English

Posted: June 11th, 2012 | 12 Comments »

Great to see Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls out in English from Penguin…and here’s a good author interview courtesy of Danwei too

Northern Girls: Life Goes On

Author: Keyi Sheng

NORTHERN GIRLS tells a story of modern China, the China that in the late 1990s began to see cities thrown up in the blink of an eye and with them came workers who traveled across the country in search of a better life. Sheng’s central character is sixteen-year-old Qian Xiaohong who abandons her Hunan village for the bright lights of the big city, full of hope and anticipation only to be met with her own vulnerability and a seemingly endless list of dangers. Xiaohong finds comfort and consolation in the company of fellow migrant girls, the ‘northern girls’, who support each other and provide relief from the desolation of their lives, lived simply to survive.

Sheng’s characters are as bold as her subject matter and they face poverty, forced abortions, unwelcome sexual advances, redundancy and more, head on and with humour rather than despair – I suppose if they didn’t laugh they would certainly cry but they band together and do the best they can to carry on living in this fictionalized account of what is for many a very real reality. NORTHERN GIRLS brings the harsh realities of life in China into stark focus.

A poignant, beautiful novel, translated by Shelly Bryant, which draws on the real life experiences and stories of China’s female migrant population. Northern Girls is honest and daring in equal measures and we certainly hope that you will agree. Please find attached a press release with more information about the book as well as an image of the jacket.

Qian Xiaohong is born into a sleepy Hunan village, where the new China rush towards development is a mere distant rumour. A buxom, naïve sixteen-year-old, she yearns to leave behind hometown scandal, and joins the mass migration to the bustling boomtown of Shenzhen. There, she must navigate dangerous encounters with ruthless bosses, jealous wives, sympathetic hookers and corrupt policemen as she tries to find her place in the ever-evolving society.

Hardship and tragedy are in no short supply as her journey takes her through a grinding succession of dead end jobs. To help her through this confusing maze, Xiaohong finds solace in the close ties she makes with the other migrant girls – the community of her fellow ‘northern girls’ – who quickly learn to rely on each other for humour and the enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures.

A beautiful coming-of-age novel, Northern Girls explores the inner lives of a generation of young, rural Chinese women who embark on life-changing journeys in search of something better.

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