November 03, 2008 12:00 PM

by Leslie T. Chang


For teens including Wu Chunming, one of the indelible subjects of Factory Girls, China’s industrial city of Dongguan is a shining beacon where rural transplants can transform themselves from assembly-line workers into saleswomen or even entrepreneurs. The catch? Only the ruthless survive. A former Wall Street Journal reporter whose parents emigrated from China, Chang offers an intimate view of her protagonists’ lives: Chunming, 17, describes her 14-hour workdays and tyrannical bosses, while other dauntless teenagers learn to “job-hop” by fibbing to employers. This is an irresistible book—one that transports readers into the “universe of perpetual motion,” as Chang puts it, that is modern China.

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