The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices
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When Deng Xiaoping’s 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.
It’s torture having to come in at four-thirty for the early news. Bye.’ I waved goodbye distractedly. I was anxious to find out what was happening, but had to wait for the External Affairs Office to deal with the matter. At nine o’clock that evening, the office finally passed on a letter that the old couple had given them. The colleague who delivered it said it was the suicide note of the couple’s only child, a nineteen-year-old girl. Afraid that I would be too disturbed to go on air after
had been falsely accused of being counter-revolutionary. Mother and daughter had suffered needlessly for ten years. Zhou Ting’s father had not escaped either: later in the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards had surrounded his hospital bed and submitted him to numerous interrogations until he died. ‘Even now, I often wake with a start from nightmares of being beaten in my childhood,’ Zhou Ting said. ‘Was your experience unusual in your school?’ I asked. Sunlight was streaming into the room,
Ting was silent for a few moments. ‘Did you see the headline “Tough Businesswoman Rejects Strategic Marriage to Renew Old Flame” or something like that? God knows what people must have thought of me after that piece of news had been worked over a few times. The media has made me into a monstrous figure of a woman: attempted murder, adultery, I’m made out to have done the lot. This has isolated me from other women, and my friends and family keep their distance too. But notoriety has brought me
trace of this tendency in the little girls, though. For the first few days I puzzled over this riddle, but did not like to enquire too deeply into it. I hoped to find the answer in my own way. It was my habit to make sketches of the scenery I thought typified each place I was reporting on. No colour was necessary to depict Shouting Hill, a few lines were enough to bring out its essential qualities. While I was sketching, I noticed some small piles of stones that I could not recall having seen
baby fly in the little wood on the hill behind the hospital. Not many people go there, it’s very peaceful. 12 June – Overcast, cloudy later This morning the skies were dark and gloomy. It was dull grey in the wards too: everything around me reflected my feelings. I was constantly on the verge of tears, thinking about the little fly, who would never play with me again. Dr Zhong says my white blood-cell count is too low, and that is why I feel faint. From today, I must have three bottles of a