Narrating Modern Chinese Women’s Lives

Conference: The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies (ACCS2022)
Title: Narrating Modern Chinese Women’s Lives
Stream: Women’s Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Lisa Yinghong Li, J. F. Oberlin University, Japan


This paper expands current research on life narratives of modern Chinese women. Through reading Xinran’s The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices this paper intends to bring new understandings of postsocialist Chinese women focusing on social suffering as a major theme. This is one of a few books dedicated to giving voices to ordinary Chinese women. Published in English in 2003 the book is a hybrid text based on interviews, dialogues, monologues, and letters from women of diverse background in terms of education, vocation, age, geographical location and sexual orientation. Much content was broadcast on a radio program Xinran hosted in early reform-era China. Some content had never passed the Chinese government censor for the radio program and is made public for the first time. Other content would have put Xinran in danger had is been published in China. Personal narratives of Xinran and her mother add an autobiographical element to the book. As such, it offers invaluable insight into realities facing Chinese women, especially those not dealt with by official Chinese narratives in history or literature. The book will be treated as a literary text but also discussed with the intention of illuminating cruel issues addressed in current research on women’s oral history such as memory, trauma, identity and agency. This research will update current research on Chinese women’s narratives that has focused more on traditional writings by bringing contemporary Chinese women’s life narratives to the center.

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