Education About Asia: Online Archives

May Fourth Women Writers: Memoirs

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Edited by Janet Ng and Janice Wickeri
HONG KONG: RENDITIONS PAPERBACKS, 1996
133 PAGES

Reviewed by Barbara Mori

This slim volume introduces the reader to seven Chinese women writers from the May Fourth Movement of 1919. In a series of translated selections from their writings, readers learn that what moved women of the early part of this century is not much different from what occupies the thoughts and feelings of women now: love of family, friends and boyfriends; fear of rejection and success; aspirations for a future both dreaded and longed for; and how or whether to express the emotions that hold sway. The Chinese women writers in this volume, like women writers everywhere, realized that they must begin writing about that which they know best, their own lives, and use their talents to try to understand the world within as well as the world around them. These passionate stories focus on relationships with mothers and friends, with loss and sorrow, and on the problems of being educated people. These women, who did not fit into the expected Confucian roles, found no place for themselves in an unpredictable and changing Chinese society. These tales illustrate how the “personal is political.” They relate the ways the women dealt with new definitions of what it is to be female in China, a debate continuing into the 1990s.

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