Northern Girls Extract
By Eric Abrahamsen, published February 8, 2010, 6:54a.m.
More reading material: a sample translation of the first chapter of Sheng Keyi's Northern Girls. Edit: the English translation of Northern Girls will be published by Penguin in 2012, so I've removed the sample.
From the promotional materials we took to Frankfurt 2009:
"Sheng Keyi's first full-length novel, Northern Girls is drawn from her experiences as a job-seeking migrant in the early 1990s. Its main character, Hong, is no different from the thousands of other country girls who are moving to Shenzhen to seek work, with one exception: she has an extraordinarily full bosom. She finds herself caught up in the chaos of Shenzhen, a city that hardly existed ten years previously, where the mad rush of economic growth has destabilized moral norms and shredded the fabric of society. With hardly a thought in her head but to make her way in the world, she discovers that her body has already opened some doors and closed others, shaping her fate before she's even had a chance to gain her footing.
"After arriving in Shenzhen Hong and her friend drift at the edges of society, working in hair salons, shops, factories and hotels, owning absolutely nothing in the world but their labor and their bodies. As migrant worker girls they are doomed to be scorned by local women and humiliated by local men, but as Hong's companions slowly begin to turn down the path of least resistance, Hong herself sticks to her own idiosyncratic principles, stubbornly insisting on her own brand of integrity, and the bosom that has caused her so much grief becomes a symbol of her irrepressible vital force."