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Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China | [Leslie T. Chang]

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

A book of global significance that provides new insight into China, Factory Girls demonstrates how the mass movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and transforming Chinese society, much as immigration to America's shores remade our own country a century ago.
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Publisher's Summary

China has 130 million migrant workers - the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China's Pearl River Delta.

As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life - a world where nearly everyone is under 30; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; and where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place. Throughout this riveting portrait, Chang also interweaves the story of her own family's migrations, within China and to the West, providing historical and personal frames of reference for her investigation.

A book of global significance that provides new insight into China, Factory Girls demonstrates how the mass movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and transforming Chinese society, much as immigration to America's shores remade our own country a century ago.

©2008 Leslie Chang; (P)2008 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"A gifted storyteller, Chang plumbs...private narratives to craft a work of universal relevance." (Publishers Weekly)
"An exceptionally vivid and compassionate depiction of the day-to-day dramas, and the fears and aspirations, of the real people who are powering China's economic boom." (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (252 )
5 star
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4.0 (127 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 08-23-09
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 08-23-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Cumulative Effect"

    Leslie Chang, a Chinese-American writer, has produced an informative volume about the Chinese migration of women from rural areas and life to urban living. She accomplishes this by telling the stories of individual and groups of women. She illustrates the book with direct quotes and closely written stories. She works very hard to help the reader understand what is taking place through Chinese eyes.

    The book is great to listen to and is very informative. After listening I thought that the same information could have been presented in less space and with fewer words. After a few days of reflection, however, I believe her approach enables to listener/reader to internalize the situation in urban China or get a feel for what is taking place. The cumulative effect is positive and was, in my case, informative.

    The reading of the book is excellent.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Lexington, MA, USA 02-12-09
    Peter Lexington, MA, USA 02-12-09 Member Since 2008
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    "a fine match of author and narrator"

    Engaging and enlightening. And perfectly read by Susan Ericksen who voices the author and her other characters cleanly and expressively, with just the right blend of passion and dramatic restraint.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Bronx, NY, United States 07-18-09
    Andy Bronx, NY, United States 07-18-09 Member Since 2007

    Andy

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    "Compelling Whirlwind"

    People come and go so quickly around here. The story is fascinating, frustrating, lonely, hard and hopeful. The book is well written and the narrator perfectly propels it. Everything here is in flux - dirt, roads, small and large factories, the women, the jobs, the buildings, the worker dormatories, the buses. People jump jobs over and over, inching up the ladder toward a yearned for success. In Thomas Friedman's books he is the one on the move; here, Leslie Chang stands in stillness to capture the whirlwind around her. A very good read.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Horseshoe Bay, TX, United States 07-18-09
    Richard Horseshoe Bay, TX, United States 07-18-09 Member Since 2005
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    "The rest of the story"

    Having traveled in China and Taiwan and visited many factories from the late 1980's to the present time, this book tells 'the rest of the story'... what I have wondered about on each of my factory visits... who are these people that are working in the factories? and where did they come from?, what are they thinking?, etc. And it tells the personal struggles of the 20th Century for a highly sophisticated culture. I wish every high school student in the USA would read this.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ravenmaster China 03-01-10
    Ravenmaster China 03-01-10 Member Since 2005

    Raven

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Living in Shenzhen - and What A Disappointment"

    The subject matter of this book is compelling from so many different perspectives. Having lived in Shenzhen since the mid-90's, and having spent many years in the trading business and more time than I care to admit trudging around factories in China, I was very excited to see this book come out, and was expecting so much from it. The information conveyed here is really good, and the author does a very workmanlike job of conveying factual (mostly) information. The writing, however, is horrendous. I've read better on the back of cereal boxes - seriously. I honestly don't understand why a publisher would let this out of their shop - I can only guess its because of her connections with the WSJ. And the only thing worse than the writing is the narration. The narrator has no passion for the subject matter, and it comes off exactly that way. She makes bland writing even worse. And as for the pronunciation of the Chinese, it's abysmal, inconsistent (the city of Dongguan comes up several hundred times in the book, and she butchers it at least 6 different ways, including pronouncing backwards once); I didn't hear one Chinese word that was even close to correct pronunciation. For anyone that lives in China interested in this compelling topic, it's like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. I struggled through it only because I have a personal interest in the topic. If I saw anything else from this writer or the narrator, I'd steer well clear of it.

    14 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    matthew san diego, CA, United States 12-09-13
    matthew san diego, CA, United States 12-09-13 Member Since 2008

    I am an English teacher in China and can now read and write some Chinese.I have been to 13 countries on 4 continents.I am an avid audiophile

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Evolution of China"

    This was written by the wife of teacher/ writer Peter Hessler. She gives us the Chinese perspective of China as we move through modern places like Shenzhen and rural places that are fast becoming modern. It is the women that are leading this change. Many leave their villages in search of a better life. Sometimes they lie or charm their way up the ladder of success. Sometime they improve themselves through study, but they are very driven to make lives better. We discover how lost some of the women are as they traverse the bridge to modernity from the simplicity of farm life before. We come to understand the pressure many feel as they become the matriarchs of their poor families. Many are expected to return during the rural holidays with electronic gifts like washing machines or air conditioners to lavish on their hard working, less educated parents. I have been in China for a brief 4 years, but can see where many people succeed there are also many that fail. We are left with a glimpse of how hard it is to make it in the number two world economy right now. We are left to ponder the outcome of this machine that is leveling everything old and reshaping itself into something that will blend the old with the new in an exciting and shocking way.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 06-02-13
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 06-02-13 Member Since 2008
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    "If you are curious about China - worth a listen."

    My title says it all - if you are interested in contemporary China - this is worth a listen. Although the author is young, she is intelligent, insightful, and a good writer.

    The book starts strong by helping the listener to understand the unprecedented changes sweeping China as millions move from the country to the city looking for work. In the process, everything changes: the villages are empty (especially of young girls), the city folk are not happy to be inundated by uncultured country folk, the immigrants have to create new lives and identities, and huge factory operations have to be maintained against a backdrop of untrained workers who are constantly leaving and returning to work.

    Along the way, the reader learns more about what has happened in China over the last 150 years (think Boxer Rebellion and colonization; think warring factions within China; think of the brutal, self-inflicted wounds of Mao's rule) and how the latest migration is but one of many migrations over thousands of years for Chinese people - including the migration of the author's family to the US.

    My biggest gripe about this book is that it is too long and repeatedly bogs down in the details of some of the characters it follows. She does best when she is looking at the big picture and helping to sort out trends.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2005

    mostly nonfiction listener

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    "China, Migration, and Urbanization"

    The largest migration in the history of the world is unfolding in China, as the rural young from agricultural villages make their way to way to factories in the cities. Chang, a Chinese-American reporter for the Wall Street Journal, spends three years following the lives of two young women as they struggle to make a new life (and invent a new China) in the factory city of Dongguan.

    In the process of learning about migration and urbanization in China, we also follow Chang on her own journey to understand her families past, with her relatives participating, victimization and triumph through revolution, migration, the cultural revolution, assimilation, and authoritarian capitalism. The experience of the "factory girls" that Chang follows stands in for the experiences of millions of Chinese, as well as the larger global story of the move from the country to the city.

    The young ladies that Chang profiles are forced to re-invent themselves at each step, while struggling to maintain links to the village families that they have left behind. This migration, and the changes that this flow of labor brings to China (and global capitalism) one of the most important stories of our time, is beautifully and sensitively told in this heart-breaking, hopeful and important book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah arroyo grande, CA, United States 09-30-09
    Deborah arroyo grande, CA, United States 09-30-09
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    "Great Book on Changes in China"

    This book talks about the changes in society that have been occuring in the past 20 years. It follows the life of several different immigrant women moving from the village into the city to work in factories making export goods. Its shows that this is a time of hugh changes in Chinese society for women. An excellent story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Evergreen Park, IL, United States 05-22-09
    Stephen Evergreen Park, IL, United States 05-22-09 Member Since 2006
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    "Well Done"

    Very well written, good narration, and good audio quality. I was a little disappointed in that there was very little mention of non-migrant workers who also are in the same boat as the authors friends. Specifically, what is the fate of institutionalized girls within the factor workforce?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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