By Lijia Zhang
A spirited memoir by a former Chinese factory worker who grew up in Nanjing, participated in the Tiananmen Square protest and ended up an international journalist.
Lijia Zhang worked as a teenager in a factory producing missiles designed to reach North America,queuing every month to give evidence to the “period police” that she wasn’t pregnant. In the oppressive routine of guarded compound and political meetings, Zhang’s disillusionment with “The Glorious Cause” drove her to study English, which strengthened her intellectual independence – from bright, western style clothes to organizing the largest demonstration by Nanjing workers in support of Tiananmen Square Protest in 1989. By narrating the changes in her own life, Zhang chronicles the momentous shift in China’s economic policy: her factory, still an ICBM manufacturer, won the bid to cast a giant bronze Buddha as the country went crazy for profit.
Written in English, “Socialism Is Great!” is a testament to Zhang’ personal triumphs over the controlled existence that was supposed to be her destiny.
The hardback was first published in March 2008 by Atlas & Co in New York.
The paperback edition was published by Anckor (Random House) in May 2009.
Published in Australia by University of West Australia Press in September, 2008.
Published in India by HarperCollins in December, 2008.
Published in Holland by Mouria in May, 2009. Leve Het Socialisme!
Published in Italian by Cooper, an imprint of Banda Larga,
in Dec., 2009. Socialismo E Grande!
Published in Frenchy by Bourin in Jan. 2010. "Vive le Socialism!"
Published in Brazil in Portuguese by Reler Editora in August 2010. A garota da fábrica de mísseis – memórias de uma operária da Nova China,
Published in South Korea by Hyeonamsa Publishing Co. March, 2011
Lijia Zhang’s ‘Socialism is Great’ presents a unique portrait of contemporary China. It is partly a memoir of this extraordinary coming-of-age: but it is also a remarkably vivid account of modern China and should be required reading for everyone who has any interest in contemporary Asia. —Amitav Ghosh, the author of The Sea of Poppies and The shadow Line.
"If David Copperfield had been a Chinese girl in the 1980s, in the city of Nanjing, he might have ended up on the assembly line at Liming Machinery Factory, under the authority of the Ministry of Aerospace Industry, making missiles capable of reaching North America. Has the blacking factory ever seemed so benign in comparison? In ‘Socialism is Great!’ Lijia Zhang has written a beautiful memoir of this important period, when China began to recover from its political traumas and open to the outside world. Our current China literature is heavy with victim memoirs, but this is a true tale of aspiration: a young woman coming of age in a nation desperately trying to do the same."—Peter Hessler, Bejing correspondent for The New Yorker and author of Oracle Bones and River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
"This affecting record of individual striving and fulfillment reminds us, with humor and insight, how the growth of sensibility in unfavorable circumstances remains one of our most pleasurable literary experiences. Set against China’s breathless recent transformation, it also offers (going beyond the conventional Chinese memoir of the Cultural Revolution) a rare and intimate glimpse of a country and culture that are now reshaping our world."—Pankaj Mishra, author of An End to Suffering and The Romantics
"Lijia Zhang has written a sharply observant and admirably crafted memoir of her life in China during the 1980s, the period between the first effusions of Democracy Wall and the tragedy of Tiananmen Square. In this memoir, Zhang places her own first experiences with factory work, foreign literature, physical desire, and political activism, in the broader setting of fading Maoist impulses and the beginnings of China's headlong pursuit of economic growth. The result is a truly original contribution to our understanding of modern China."—Jonathan Spence, author of The Death of Woman Wang and Return to Dragon Mountain
"'Socialism Is Great!' is a literary gem in the genre of Revolutionary China. In telling a defiant and delicious tale of her own, Zhang deftly crafts the journey of a whole generation, desperately yearning to break away from the ropes of tradition and living to dream the impossible. It's a book to relish, a volume to cherish and mostly, a life to celebrate." —Da Chen, author of Colors of the Mountain and recent Quill Award nominated novel, Brothers
"This gripping and unflinchingly honest memoir traces the trials and triumphs of one courageous Chinese factory worker who came of age in the 1980s. Zhang Lijia's battle with a host of adversities is ultimately the story of how idealism and romance can flourish in a cold, hard soil."—James Kynge, author of China Shakes the World, former Beijing bureau chief, The Financial Times
"Lijia Zhang has written a remarkable memoir about coming of age at the start of China’s historic reform era. The early to mid-1980s are a period that many have overlooked. Caught between the national trauma of the Cultural Revolution and the upheavals of Tiananmen Square, it was when a nation awoke to its possibilities. In one of the few memoirs of this key period, Ms. Zhang personifies the country’s restlessness and boundless energy. Born into a working class family, she inherited a routine job in a rocket factory. Like the rest of China, she wasn’t satisfied with this predictable but stultifying life and pushed outward. Lively written with a lot of humor and brushes with the law, her story is that of a generation—the one that created the China that so fascinates the world today." —Ian Johnson, the winner of 2001’s Pulitzer Prize and author of Wild Grass.
Lijia Zhang’s book is gentle, funny and wry. A lovely addition to some very fine contemporary writing coming out of China.I enjoyed it tremendously.—Arundhati Roy, author of God of Small Thing
“Socialism is Great!” is guaranteed to leave you moved and uplifted by Lijia Zhang’s determination to make the life she wanted.—Hari Kunzru, author of The Impressionist and Transmission