Little Sister: 8searching for the Shadow World of Chinese Women

Julie Checkoway, Author Viking Books $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-670-84878-2
In 1987, Checkoway, whose fiction has appeared in literary journals, spent nearly a year teaching English at a university in Shijiazhuang, an industrial city four hours south of Beijing. She went to China with the idea of searching out a mysterious and secret means of bonding that she was told existed between Chinese women; what she reports is merely plain talk from five women she questioned. Each had something of interest to say about hardships suffered under Mao Zedong, disappointing relations with men or the frustrations of sexual inequalities. But there are few revelations here, and nothing so romantic as that ""shadow world"" she sought. She does note some of the real problems women face in Deng's version of the market economy: unequal pay, no maternity leave or on-site child care, spousal abuse and declining literacy rates--none of these mysterious or innately Chinese. In a style marred by self-conscious conceits and an often condescending or hostile attitude toward those around her, Checkoway evokes the deprivations and dreariness she sees, but her efforts to interweave problems of her own past with her Chinese experience are tantalizingly sketchy and too fragmented to engage a reader. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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