La Valley, Josanne. Factory Girl. Fiction. Clarion, 01/2017. 265pp. $17.99. 978-0-544-69947-2. HIGH ADDITIONAL. GRADES 9-12.
Inspired by the author’s experiences while traveling in northern China, this moving fictional story sheds light on the Chinese policy under which young Muslim Uyghur women are coerced into working in factories thousands of miles away. Narrator Roshen, along with other young Uyghur women, is forced to work long hours in harsh conditions. The women are poorly fed, tricked out of their pay, and kept isolated from their families and the outside world. The author does not pull her punches about the casual and relentless cruelty and indifference of their Chinese bosses who despise the Uyghurs both for their ethnicity and their religion, though there are also a handful of kindly locals. The protective kinship of the young women, in the face of utter hopelessness, is beautifully drawn. Roshen is outwardly “sweet,” and inwardly recalls the traditional poetic command to “wake up!” though ultimately remains somewhat passive. Others are a little thinly developed and only a few emerge with any clarity: rebellious Mikray; misguided Hawa; fragile Zuwida. Ideal for teens interested in social justice, and though the deliberate persecution and elimination of the Uyghur culture is mostly undocumented, there are some context notes at the end, and a few sources for further reading.
Hayley Beale, San Francisco Univ High School