A few weeks ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Leslie T. Chang's Factory Girls is the best nonfiction book I've read all year, and hands down the best in a long chain of books about modern China. Chang was the Beijing correspondent for The Wall Street Journal when she started the book by the simple act of befriending a few of the young women (some still in their teens) who make up the vast majority of China's 130 million-person industrial migration – the largest in human history. These amazingly resilient young women and girls leave behind the villages of their childhood and the shelter of their families and journey to the boom towns of the south, where they're paid tiny wages for boring, repetitive, often dangerous work. They set goals; they change jobs; they send money home. They rise in the world. Chang tells their stories with enormous art and admirable clarity, and this book caught at my heart over and over again. As it happened, I'd just finished writing The Queen of Patpong, the center section of which is the story – 45,000 words' worth – of how a teenage girl, discovering that she's to be sold into prostitution, runs to Bangkok to the relatively more benign prostitution of the bars, which are as much a women's world as the factories of southern China. Both environments are rich in heartbreak, friendship, and betrayal, and in both worlds young women become people they hardly would have recognized when they were back in the village. A great, great book.Visit Timothy Hallinan's website and blog, and read about The Queen of Patpong.
Read: Brett Battles interviews Timothy Hallinan.