Synopses & Reviews
When Deng Xiaopings efforts to “open up” China took root in the late 1980s, Xinran recognized an invaluable opportunity. As an employee for the state radio system, she had long wanted to help improve the lives of Chinese women. But when she was given clearance to host a radio call-in show, she barely anticipated the enthusiasm it would quickly generate. Operating within the constraints imposed by government censors, “Words on the Night Breeze” sparked a tremendous outpouring, and the hours of tape on her answering machines were soon filled every night. Whether angry or muted, posing questions or simply relating experiences, these anonymous women bore witness to decades of civil strife, and of halting attempts at self-understanding in a painfully restrictive society. In this collection, by turns heartrending and inspiring, Xinran brings us the stories that affected her most, and offers a graphically detailed, altogether unprecedented work of oral history.
About the Author
Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958. In 1997 she moved to London. This is her first book.
Reading Group Guide
1. Do you think that Xinran's mission with the Words on the Night Breeze and The Good Women of China, can ultimately be traced back to her own problematic relationship with her mother, and her absent father?
2. In her prologue, Xinran tells of when she risked her life fighting an attacker for her bag, as it contained her only finished manuscript. Would you do the same? Is life more important than a book?
3. How far do you accept the old Chinese saying that woman's nature is like water and man's nature is like mountains? Consider to what extent this applies to both Western and Chinese cultures.
4. Do you think Xinran agrees with the water/mountain comparison by the end of her stories? Consider this in the light of her use of imagery, and how these two motifs are used within the text.
5. Looking back at The Woman Who Loved Women story, do you think that if Taohong had not been raped she still would have found herself only able to love women? Is she really homosexual or just badly scarred?
6. It might be said that in some way Xinran is worthy of criticism for choosing to settle in England, leaving the women of China to a world that is still so behind Western standards of equality. Do you agree?
7. Which of the stories did you find most disturbing, and why?