Title: Miss Chopsticks
Author: Xinran (Also known as Xinran Xue)
Summary: Xinran takes her readers to the heart of modern Chinese society in this delightful and absorbing tale of three peasant girls getting to grips with life in the big city.
The Li sisters don’t have much education, but one thing has been drummed into them: their mother is a failure because she hasn’t managed to produce a son, and they themselves only merit a number as a name. Women, their father tells them, are like chopsticks: utilitarian and easily broken. Men, on the other hand, are the strong rafters that hold up the roof of a house.
Yet when circumstances lead the sisters to seek work in distant Nanjing, the shocking new urban environment opens their eyes. While Three contributes to the success of a small restaurant, Five and Six learn new talents at a health spa and a bookshop/tearoom. And when the money they earn starts arriving back at the village, their father is forced to recognize that daughters are not so dispensable after all.
As the Li sisters discover Nanjing, so do we: its past, its customs and culture, and its future as a place where people can change their lives.
My Rating: 8.5/10
What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was partially based on a true story. Many things were changed to protect the identities of the three original girls, who apparently weren’t actually sisters, which made the book more interesting, because it made me happy to see that three real women had the courage to do this, when very few people thought they could actually make it. The only issue I have with the book, and this is addressed a little in the authors note after the book is finished, is it leaves the reader with very little closure with what happens to these three women later on in life. This is because the author had little information about the women later on in life this book was based on. Even still, a great read!
One of the main thing things this story was that it brought to light, how far from women’s equality the world really is. This book shows how many women in China don’t have much equality as one would think, particularly in smaller villages, where women are still thought as second or even third class citizens. The book follows three young sisters, who according to their father, and many members of their little community that they are worthless and not meant for anything but marriage, most likely one that would be arranged by their father, but the three women rise above the rest, head to the big city, and try to make it on their own.
I really enjoyed this book, as I followed the characters and their attempts, triumphs and failures as they tried to make it on their own. It’s a powerful and inspiring story, on how putting your mind to it, even without the full support of your family, friends or community, you can do it. That being a “disadvantage” or a woman, doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. The writing is well done, although it’s hard to comment in full detail because it is a translation, (then translator actually commented on this very idea before the book started) the book was still well written, the voices of the characters well portrayed, and the authors original voice still seemed to be there.
What I enjoyed the most, was that the story showed a very real look at what on what can happen when women go out on their own, or any one for that matter, trying to make it and be an inspiration for others back in their home community. There were setbacks, heartbreak and letdowns, but in the end the readers get an amazing message, that woman can make it, we can make a difference, even if it’s a small difference, and we can show the world, we aren’t mere chopsticks.
Would I recommend it to read: Yes. It's a very powerful book, the author did a fantastic job with telling the story, and it's an excellent choice if you enjoy womens fiction/social justice fiction or Chinese Fiction.
What to read next: I'd say read more of Xinran's work, as she is a very talented author. Soul Mountain is also a very well done novel.
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge,
Women Unbound Challenge