Reading: Emily Honig — Sisters and Strangers: Women in the Shanghai Cotton Mills, 1919-1949

As usual when I wander into my favourite bookshop, I cannot resist orbiting the gravity-sucking walls of books. I tend to not buy books impulsively, half because my list of books I want to read is already in the three figures, and half because — well, mostly it’s that reading list — but occasionally …

What an odd book to find on the shelves of St George’s. Someone probably thought, “Oh, that’d be something Frances would read,” or maybe it’s entirely automated and whenever a new shipment of books arrive, there is a small, random assortment that the regulars, like me, have a high probability of not leaving the shop without. Obviously the title was immediately intriguing, one of the periods of Chinese history I enjoy greatly, and subject itself, I immediately thought it would fit in with Gail Hershatter and Susan Mann. Which it does, because as Emily Honig describes in her acknowledgements, she was part of a group at Stanford University in the ’70s which included Hershatter, and both Hershatter and Mann were involved in the research and writing of this work.

This then is a situation when I impulsively buy a book. Sisters and Strangers: Women in the Shanghai Cotton Mills, 1919-1949 has a very narrow focus, much like the works from Mann, Hershatter, Janet Chen, all of whom individually I think are doing some of the finest research and writing on China in the last couple of decades. It’s not an easy, casual read, but it is very rewarding, and I’m enjoying it partly just to discover another one of this group.