THE SERENITY OF WHITENESS by Zhu Hong

THE SERENITY OF WHITENESS

Stories By and About Women in Contemporary China
edited by , translated by

KIRKUS REVIEW

 From contemporary Chinese women writers: a powerful but uneven collection of stories unified by unsubtle displeasure with the conditions of women in China. Zhu Hong (The Chinese Western, 1988) selects and translates into English for the first time these 11 tales, most of which appeared in Chinese literary journals or magazines in the 1980's. In her introduction, Catherine Vance Yeh (Harvard) identifies the writers as of an older generation of Chinese women more concerned with traditional socialism than with radical feminism. Examples include ``Guessie Grows Up,'' by Chen Ruiqing, about a beautiful, winsome young Chinese girl shipped off to a labor reform camp during the Cultural Revolution. Her crushed idealism symbolizes a generation of Chinese women's innocence lost. In ``The Loudspeaker,'' Bao Chuan describes the creeping paranoia of village life during the Cultural Revolution--when neighbors ``don't so much as bat an eyelid'' at each other for fear of retribution. In ``Jingjing is Born,'' Gu Ying laments the predetermined fate of a daughter born, symbolically, on the day factional war breaks out in her hometown. Lu Xin'er amplifies state manipulation and indifference to motherhood in ``The Sun Is Not Out Today,'' in which women alternately forced or ordered to have abortions line up in a gloomy, Kafkaesque hospital to await their turns. The overall pall of these stories reflects collective bitterness about lingering feudal prejudice against women in China and Orwellian control of women's private lives. A note of reprieve is struck by Hu Xin's ``Four Women of Forty,'' a bittersweet story of four friends' emotional reunion after 20 years apart. ``Careers, ideals, struggle, love, marriage, family. It is so hard for women,'' writes Hu. ``Questions at every turn. But where are the answers?'' A moving, if relentless, document of Chinese women's lives.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1992
ISBN: 0-345-37097-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1992




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