Read Miss Chopsticks by Xinran Esther Tyldesley Online


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. WXinran 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....

Title : Miss Chopsticks
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780701180423
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 257 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Miss Chopsticks Reviews

  • Gary
    2018-11-12 12:11

    A beautiful engaging book both humorous and with a penetrating understanding.Explores the lives of three Chinese girls from a rural village , from a family that has only produced girls, in a culture where this is seen as a great misfortune.To have girls according to this mentality is a misfortune as girls are regarded as 'chopsticks' disposable, and a son as a 'roofbeam', - holding up the family and household.These three girls (given only numbers) and not names make their way to the city of Nanjing to make anew life for themselves and find employment and new lives in different businessesReferences to the horrors of the past such as the cultural revolution as well as the greater freedoms which seem to be slowly growing in China.You will be overwhelmed with admiration for these young ladies (who represent the many female 'migrant' workers from the Chinese countryside to the cities.And pearls of wisdom such as this : "Money can buy a bed , but it can't buy good sleep.Money can buy a house but it can't buy a home.Money can buy food but it can't buy flavour.Money can buy a gym but it can't buy healthMoney can be used for trade but it can't buy friendsMoney can buy qualifications but it can't buy ambition"and quirky Chinese means of description, used by one of the sisters, like : " People mountain, people sea - Great crowds of peopleMorning three night four - blow hot and coldWang eight eggs - bastardWield a big knife in front of General Guangong - show offGood good study, day day up - Study hard so as to make progress every day. Written with great wit and a love for China and it's people. Captures sights, sounds , tastes and especially the spirit of today's China. And also a taste of the beautiful ancient culture and tradition of China which the cultural revolution never quite succeeded in destroying. Great characterization and cultural insight.

  • Angela Oliver
    2018-12-02 17:08

    Yes, I have tagged this with "non fiction" even though it is not. That is because although the characters and events are not real, the people and places they were based on are. Xinran was a journalist who now writes beautiful stories about women in China. Their stories are sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes funny and always touching. This novel is about as close to real as you can get.This is the story of three sisters, named Three, Five and Six, who have lived all their life in the countryside, the life of poor peasants. Their father, disappointed to have no sons, refers to them as "chopsticks" - implying that they are easily broken. Sons are considered "roofbeams" - strong and sturdy. Of course, chopsticks are essential to the Chinese way of life, and these three girls make new lives for themselves in the city of Nanking. It is not at easy life, and their country ways brand them as outsiders, ignorant of the way the new, urban way of life exists, but gradually they learn - each in their own ways. Three is creative and caring; youngest sister Six, intelligent and wishing to become more learned, and Five has long been considered the ugly and stupid sister, but as the story proceeds, you begin to realise that she is neither, she is just different, and somewhat naive.The translation was pretty good, although some of the conversations seemed a little forced, and unrealistic (although perhaps that is the way the Chinese speak, when it is translated into English). And the three sisters and their individual stories - their hopes and dreams, deeply involving. All up, a joly good read and also a moving insight into the Chinese way of life.

  • Sarah
    2018-12-07 20:10

    This book is about three sisters, known as Three, Five and Six. Their mother was only able to give birth to girls (although we all know that’s the man’s fault, isn’t it!). In his disappointment, the father didn’t want to bother thinking of names for the girls, so he named them according to the order that they were born in. It’s called Miss Chopsticks because that’s what girls are known as, “Chopsticks” because chopsticks are only to be used and discarded, and easily broken. Men, however, are the strong rafters who hold up the roof of the household.The three sisters leave their small village, and set out to find work in the city of Nanjing. Their eyes are opened by how different the city is compared to their village. They sit in cars for the first time, experience new culinary delights, and learn so many new things from their respective employers. Three has a talent for arranging flowers and vegetables, so she quickly finds a job at a restaurant, where her work pulls many people into the restaurant. Five, who is not as smart as the other two, is drafted to work at a health spa. And Six, who has the most education of them all, works in a tea-shop cum library.Being a Chinese myself, it’s so easy for me to picture myself in their shoes. Who knows, if my great-grandparents hadn’t come over from China, I might even be one of these girls! I read several reviews of this book, and one reader commented that he found it hard to believe that the girls were really that naive. Personally, I don’t find it that unbelievable at all! I’ve visited China before, and gone to some of the remote villages which are quite cut off from the cities. And I’ve heard stories of Indonesian maids that come over to Malaysia and are really clueless. For example, there was one maid that thought the toilet was a washing machine, and threw a towel inside and pulled the flush! This could equate to Three (I think it was her), who visited her employer’s loo, and she had no idea how to use it. In desperation, she hiked up her clothes, jumped onto the toilet bowl and did a No 2. When the employers went into the toilet, there was a nasty smell, and a “surprise” still inside the toilet bowl!All in all, a very charming book with humorous stories thrown in here and there. By reading it, you’ll have an idea of rural China, and the difficulties people face when migrating to the city, as well as Chinese culture.

  • Yvonne
    2018-12-08 11:58

    A book about Chinese women that does not make you want to run out and adopt a Chinese orphan girl! Does that sound shallow? After reading this I felt that every other book I have read set in this culture or in American immigrant families has painted a bleak world in which the main character struggles against all, often with the support of one or two faithful friends, who are fated to die or be separated from her. Perhaps I am over reacting?In any case, Xinran paints a picture of modern China which does not make me want to move there, but in which people help each other, even strangers, and where the odds that a girl succeeding are worthy of a bet, especially if she puts her strengths to work for her. It was a refreshing read for me. And I will keep it on hand as the antidote to my next book choices set in China.A last note: the characters are fictional but based upon women the author has met in China. At the end of the book, she tells you what she knows of the fate of the women who inspired her.

  • Nikki
    2018-12-06 15:12

    Miss Chopsticks is a fictionalised account of three Chinese girls who Xinran had met. Their stories are both sad and full of hope: they are poor and disadvantaged, but by good luck, cleverness and hard work, they show their family how much they are worth.If you're interested in China, and particularly the lives of women in China, I definitely recommend Xinran's work. It's well translated, I think: very clear and easy to read. The translation does create a distance, and it's not like a English novel, but if you're interested in China then that's not what you'd be going for anyway.

  • Carmen
    2018-11-24 18:47

    Ha sido como un cuento, o más bien como una fábula sobre tres chicas "palillo" en un mundo totalmente distinto al suyo. Parecía que estaba leyendo algo de hace décadas, pero no, la historia está ambientada a comienzos del siglo XXI y llama muchísimo la atención las diferencias tan abismales entre el campo y los núcleos urbanos de una sociedad como la china. Me ha gustado todo lo que me han contado, sentirme algo más cerca de una cultura tan desconocida para mí, y el tono positivo aunque real de la novela. Al principio cuesta un poco hacerse al ritmo narrativo que nos marca la autora pero luego entiendes que forma parte de esa misma cultura. Lo que cuenta es tan cierto que te hace pensar en las millones de mujeres que no han tenido la suerte de nacer libres o con la capacidad de elegir como nosotras.Opinión completa en el blog https://millibrosenmibiblioteca.blogs...

  • Kate
    2018-12-09 12:49

    If you’ve never read anything by Xinran before then allow me to get bossy: Read something by Xinran.Actually, I’ve only read her non-fiction, which is invariably so affecting, so powerful that the stories she tells will never leave you. I was keen to see how she tackled fiction and her novel, Miss Chopsticks, was recommended to me by Lisa (an excellent suggestion to meet a tricky reading challenge category).Miss Chopsticks is the story of peasant sisters – their mother is considered a failure because she never produced a son, and the daughters only merit a number as a name.“In my village, girls are called ‘chopsticks’ and boys ‘roof-beams’. They all say girls are no good because a chopstick can’t support a roof.”Sisters Three, Five and Six move to the large city of Nanjing to seek work – their lack of education and naivety makes life difficult in the big city but each girl manages to find her place.Miss Chopsticks is based on three unrelated women Xinran met in China in the early 2000s. Although this book is not biographical, their stories are representative of the experiences of many woman who moved from rural villages to big cities. Xinran captures the detail of city life, it’s surprises and shocks, as well as weaving references to Nanjing’s festivals, traditions and landmarks into the story. The section about Face Powder Lane/ Red Guard Road was particularly interesting and described one aspect of the Cultural Revolution –“…turned the wolf-hair calligraphy brushes that had been treasured for generations into bottle washers. High-quality rice paper that had once borne beautiful poetry was used to ‘resolve the outgoing problems of the masses’ – that is, as toilet paper… Incense burners from the Ming dynasty became crocks for storing rice and beans; writing tables with secret, mirror-lined drawers were transformed into hen-coops or shelving.”Knowing this book was fictitious, I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I have been when reading Xinran’s other books. That said, her Afterword, and the story of how Miss Chopsticks came about (prompted by a visit to Tasmania!) is charming and reminded me of the very personal element in all of Xinran’s writing.3/5 Interesting.

  • Max
    2018-12-10 16:47

    This wonderful novel details three sisters’ journey of exploration as they leave their little village and all-female siblings behind to work in the city and try to make more of themselves than being the ‘chopsticks’ that they’ve been branded. The three sisters’ stories unfold as their individual characters come to light – Five is seen as stupid and worthless, but a kindly character called Engineer Wu takes her under his wing and explains how the ignorance of male-run villages breed the idea that girls are worthless and disposable. Six is the most educated of the sisters and ends up in a tea-shop which doubles up as a library and she’s able to indulge her literary whims. Finally the first of the sisters to leave, Three, has found herself a restaurant to work in which recognises her artistic qualities and she successfully makes a name for herself.This book is so full of witty little anecdotes spawned by the Chinese language – right at the beginning of the novel there’s the tale of how the Guan brothers get their name – Buyu was originally called Yu but the meaning of Yu is ‘speak’ so when his words got him into trouble, his mother changed his name to Buyu (don’t speak!) and went as far as to call her unborn child Buyan, ‘be silent’ to try and pre-emptively keep him out of trouble.I began the book thinking it could be an extremely depressing read, but with the successes and good-news stories of each sister, what could be a saccharine-sweet novel is tempered by the afterword in which Xinran explains the three sisters are based in fact. I was amazed to see the differences between the cities and villages in China, even in the 2000’s, it’s even remarked in the book by Six’s teashop owner that the villages are centuries behind, if not more so, in every way. The idea of women being treated like chopsticks, disposable and unable to offer any lasting support in a family is utterly archaic and it’s terrifying that the notion can persist in this day and age. I really didn’t realise how little I knew about Chinese history or culture, ancient or modern, but this engrossing novel has tweaked my interest and opened my eyes to learn more about it.

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2018-12-11 12:52

    The first chapter of Miss Chopsticks is so funny and heartwarming that I fully expected to fall in love with this book. While that didn’t quite happen, it was certainly an engaging and enlightening read.The blurb is written as if this were a book about three sisters struggling against patriarchy, perhaps because that’s what western readers expect from books about Chinese women, but while the book touches on gender issues, that’s not its focus. Rather, this is a book about three sisters from the countryside who move to Nanjing, are fortunate enough to get good jobs, and discover talents they didn’t know they had, while working to adapt to life in the big city. (This is a tall order; one character opines that the countryside is 500 years behind the cities.) Thematically, then, it's mostly about the rapid pace of change in 21st century China and about the lives of migrant workers there.It’s quite a positive, hopeful book, with a plot that follows the sisters through their daily lives; even without a lot of external conflict, though, it’s still quite engaging. And it’s nice to read something about China that isn’t tragic! The characters are fairly well-drawn and I learned a good deal about modern China. The translation is also excellent; it manages to retain some humor and to insert explanations where necessary without being pedantic. In fact, it feels natural enough that one might almost think the book had been written in English (although some of its conventions, like the omniscient point-of-view, are rarely seen in English-language novels these days).After such a positive book, though, the Afterword (where the author relates what she knows about the subsequent lives of the three real-life girls) was a downer. If that information was going to be included in the book, I think I’d have preferred it to be dealt with in the actual narrative.Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, but it has enough substance to it to be more than just a light read. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an engaging portrait of modern China.

  • Melinda Elizabeth
    2018-11-23 16:51

    Miss Chopsticks amalgamates the stories that the author, Xinran has come across in her travels to rural china in the 90’s. The title of the book comes from the perception that Chinese women are viewed as ‘chopsticks’ – they are plentiful but not particularly useful unless used in collaboration with others. The men and boys are considered ‘roof beams’ – the strong pillars of society that shelter and protect China. Post-cultural revolution China is a land of opportunity – and Three, Five and Six (their father so dismayed and shamed by his daughters’ birth that he dare not grace them with any meaningful name) are prepared to be courageous in order to find a life outside of their small rural town. Arranged marriages are not uncommon, and indeed Three plots with her Uncle in order to escape marrying a crippled, corrupt Party associate. Poorly educated and poverty stricken, the opportunities that abound in the town of Nanjing seem like something they could have only dreamt of. Their tales of success and prosperity indeed feel to be something out of a storybook, because with every page you read, there’s an opportunity for calamity to occur. We are all too familiar with the sad stories of poor conditions and the risks associated with young women working in such a city. However this is not a story tracking woe, but a story of how strong these ‘chopsticks’ are, even when the odds are against them. The translation feels true to the original text – having read and watched many Chinese-English adaptations previously, I understand and appreciate the idioms of Chinese language and culture, so whilst some turns of phrase may seem overly formal or strange in translation, if you’ve come across Chinese culture previously, these terms will feel realistic and provide a very clear picture of the characters in the novel. A short novel with a great amount of character and heart. Well worth a look.

  • Chrissie
    2018-11-27 12:55

    Will this be as good as Sky Burial? I hope so! No, in my opinion it wasn't.Reading this was kind of a culture shock. I have a hard time believing the complete naivety of the three main characters. Maybe what disturbed me most was what the author has them say. I can question my inability to "accept" that these women did have such naive thoughts. On the other hand such naivety was not evident in the characters of Skye Burial. Understanding of what is right and wrong or what moves people is not learned. It is just in the person. In fact the author makes the portrayal of the adolescents' mother very wise, kind and understanding. She spent her whole life living in the country. The mother is not at all as naive as her daughters. I do understand that the change in life styles between country versus city living was huge. I think what I see as a fault is the language used by the three girls. I have some Chinese friends and one in particular does talk in a similar manner. She speaks in a very straight-forward manner, what I would call an unnuanced manner. We in the West tend to be a bit kinder, more polite in how we express ourselves. We would never just say that one of our daughters was "stupid". What I mean by this is that maybe the language used IS correct. That I simply don't like it, and thus this is not a fair criticism of the book. For me the language felt extremely childish. If you care about someone, wouldn't you make an effort to temper how you express yourself? Are the Chinese any different from us? No, we all know when we are hurting somebody. It was what came out of the characters" mouths that annoyed me.

  • Tarfah
    2018-12-08 20:06

    The title of the book says it all "Miss Chopsticks". This is the derogatory term used in this tiny country-side village to describe women- their frailty, their usefulness for a single meal, after which they are tossed away. Men, on the other hard, are referred to as "roofbeams", that is it is their strength that holds up the entire household.Great book that highlights the struggles of three Chinese sisters who leave their tiny village to move to the city of Nanjing to make a living. Their experiences, their amazement, and their difficulties in adjusting and coping with city life. The vast differences between city dwellers and people from the countryside seem insurmountable and it shocked me to realize that this book was written recently, not that long ago, yet the lifestyles lived by those countryside seem more suited to a time 40 or 50 years ago.This is the second book that I have read on China, the first was based in the 80s and this one in the late 90s- early 2000s, yet the difference between the decades in terms of country policies and societal attitudes are incomprehensible to someone unfamiliar with Chinese politics.Despite the simplistic style in which this novel was written, which I attribute mainly to the essence being "lost in translation" I appreciated the insight into the world of China and Chinese women, and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

  • Michael
    2018-12-07 19:12

    Fiction A-Z Book 'X': Miss Chopsticks by XinranI really loved this book. It's the story of three sisters from the Chinese countryside who go to work in Nanjing. It's a whole different world for them, and the book is a great exploration of this relatively new phenomenon in China. The sisters (Three, Five, and Six) are varied in skill and personality, and Xinran does a great job of deepening their characters, and making the journey they are on interesting and touching. There are no great obstacles for the girls (I kept waiting for something bad to happen, and was pleased when nothing did), but seeing them adjust to the city was enough of a story for me.It makes a great companion piece to the non-fiction book "Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China"

  • Alvaro Silva
    2018-12-04 16:53

    Excellent book, I felt so humble, it is full of beautiful lessons of life. For many people China looks like another planet and Chinese people like aliens. I can say that we are not so different. I am not giving here a review of this book because in this webpage there exist really good ones. Only as a curiosity, the book in its front cover has three Chinese characters, 菜(cai4)vegetables or food, 水(shui3)water, 茶(cha2)tea. The book tells the story of three sisters, Tree, Five and Six. Three works in a restaurant where she creates beautiful baskets of vegetables, Five works in a Spa or water culture centre and Six works in a teahouse where customers can read books while drinking tea.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2018-11-25 11:55

    This is a definite five star read for me. At less than 300 pages, it is not a long novel. It provides a view of life in China which is as much caught in the past as it is moving towards a different future. I've reviewd the novel at for thise interested: also recommend Xinran's 'Sky Burial'Both are beautifully written books, in my view.

  • Esha
    2018-11-14 19:55

    The author bends the truth a little and combines three stories as one. An interesting look into China (however a genre that is really well documented by some amazing work). An easy read but hardly life-changing.

  • Baljit
    2018-11-26 17:51

    I would really give this 2.5 stars. Interesting subject matter about rural-urban migration and cultural issues within China, but it was not that gripping a read. I felt like I was waitng for something to happen...but it never did. Having said that, I would explore this writer's previous works.

  • Yvonne Learmonth
    2018-12-06 16:53

    I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. It is not a book I would of chosen for myself. Loved the history from a girls point of view.

  • Chiara Pasquali
    2018-11-17 14:06

    A book nice to read, until the end, but a book where nothing happens.

  • Linell
    2018-12-04 12:04

    I don't think the novel is Xinran's element, but the story interested me because it is set in Nanjing where I lived for many years.

  • Deborah McCabe
    2018-11-20 14:54

    This was a very fun read. I learned quite a bit about modern-day rural China. The character development was well done. I was intrigued that it was loosely based on real characters.

  • Isa
    2018-12-11 20:14

    La condition féminine dans la Chine contemporaine à travers la vie de 3 jeunes campagnardes découvrant la vie des citadins. Très intéressant.

  • Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
    2018-12-11 15:13

    Another excellent read by Xinran, who writes what she knows without romanticising. The author's journalist experience and training help to create a story I couldn't put down but devoured in a very short time. At first I was annoyed at the girls' names of "Six, Five and Three", since we are told that the number-characters used for their names can have other meanings, such as Five's "Charming". It would have been easier to tell them apart in the first part of the book if they had had character names instead of just numbers, but then that's the point. In their village society, girls are interchangeable, just "chopsticks" that do the work and are easily replaced--or broken and thrown away. Only when they escape the closed dynamic of ignorance and tradition by going to a larger city do they become people in their own right. This is something I know about, though in a less extreme form; my parents had very little time for their female children. Boys were given enormous independence and referred to by our mother as "my boys", while we were expected to stick close to home, do all the house and garden work, and responded to whatever the nickname du jour was, or to "TonyKennyDaveJoe--you, come here." We were referred to as "the girls" and often spoken to as a unit, "Girls, I want you to..."I was a bit surprised that the city folk would adopt the "chopstick girls" so quickly and treat them so well, but apparently they were fortunate enough to fall in with former village people from the beginning. If they had fallen among dishonest city slickers, there would have been a different tale to tell. China changes at the speed of light (or at least bulldozers) these days, in the cities; in the countryside, not much has changed for the last couple of centuries. Different faces on the posters, different laws, but the old adage holds good: Heaven is high, and the Emperor far away--whether that emperor is Ai or Mao or Hu.On no account skip the Afterword of this book, as it rounds out the narrative, which otherwise ends rather abruptly. The Afterword tells us why. I wanted more, much more--but there wasn't any "more", not even for the author. I guess that's the sign of a good read.

  • Vera
    2018-12-09 16:57

    This was definitely not for me. Too bad that the theme was not presented in a better, more engaging style. I felt this is a book for children, as it is so overly and annoyingly simplistic, both in content and in language. The characters are just not believable and I cannot connect with the patronising style of writing. I could hardly stand finishing it. As someone else wrote, everyone in Nanjing seems to be over-the-top friendly and helpful, to the point that you feel the city portrayed as a parallel oversimplified universe. The attempt at adding some drama with the jail story failed miserably; I thought it was rather ridiculous. The writer and/or translator tried to squeeze in background information in a disruptive way. However, the book seems to resonate with quite a few readers - good for you! For anyone interested in women in Chinese history (although without the focus on migrant workers) I recommend Jung Chang: Wild swans - three daughters of China.

  • Alice Dillon
    2018-12-02 16:54

    *This book doesn't rely very heavily on plot, but here's a warning for potential spoilers just in case you mind*This is a wonderful book which was captivating from start to finish. It has no real plot, instead just detailing the lives of three country girls who are trying to get by in the big city. It is wonderfully written, with perfectly-drawn characters and an absorbing insight into a culture quite unlike the one I was brought up in.I know very little about China and so this book was a brilliant introduction to a fascinating and complicated society. Although I knew vaguely about the communist government (mostly just that it was there), I had no idea of its effects in the last century or so. I knew nothing of the Cultural Revolution, or of the practice of sending city children to live in the country, or of the travel restrictions placed on citizens, or just generally of how the countryside is still so archaic in its views and customs. Women are given away in arranged marriages, are shunned if they fail to produce any sons and are generally just seen as worthless.The lives of the peasant girls in the novel are unrecognisable to me. They are seen as valueless on account of being female and most of them have had very little education, spending most of their lives doing field-work and preparing for wifehood. The three sisters' move to the big city obviously provides a huge contrast and they each adapt to it in their own ways. Watching how the three sisters develop over the course of the book was brilliant and was mostly down to the beautifully-rendered characters, all of whom were individual and real and flawed. Three was clever and artistic, Six was educated and ambitious and Five was wonderful in so many ways. She couldn't read or write, had been told all her life that she was stupid and not worth anything, and yet she thrives. She proves to be talented and intelligent in her own ways, as well as being thoughtful and kind and humble. Her love of life, excitement and naivety made me love her even more. I really wish the book had been longer purely so I could see how she continues to flourish and improve.In a nutshell, this book is a wonderfully warm portrait of three beautifully-rendered characters, as well as an insight into China's culture, including its good points (such as its rich history in the arts) and its bad (such as the treatment of women). Truly a very good book.

  • Edward
    2018-11-12 16:15

    I came to read this book in a roundabout fashion. A book with the French title of BAGUETTE CHINOISE was recommended by a member of a book group I belong to. We wanted to read it in English but didn’t know the English title, and decided that it must be GOOD WOMEN OF CHINA. But when we began to discuss the book, the selector said that didn’t sound even remotely like the book she had read. We finally determined that BAGUETTE CHINOISE had been translated into English as MISS CHOPSTICKS, and that was the book we were to have read.After all of this being said, it was a good “novel,” that term being used loosely as it’s more a series of sketches about three young Chinese women who move to the city from a remote rural province to work. They are part, of course, of the recent mass exodus of the Chinese population from the countryside to the city. Xinran, who interviewed women like the ones in the book, lightly fictionalizes them as sisters, allowing her to link their lives, although she points out in the introduction that they’re based on interviews with three separate women.Running throughout the book is the contrast between the rural countryside of China and the explosive growth of cities. There is no future for women in the countryside except to bear children and do hard physical labor These children should preferably be sons, as they have much more value than women. It is only in the city that women can develop aspects of themselves besides being breeders. But it’s not an easy life in the city. Two of the women get service jobs in restaurants, the third becomes an attendant in a bathhouse. A metaphor for them is that they are blades of grass growing in city sidewalk cracks. They all have unsuspected talents in this society, one that embraced aspects of competitive capitalism, but it’s easy for them to be taken advantage of, usually by men, in terms of low pay and lack of prestige. The title refers to an old Chinese saying that women are “chopsticks”, flimsy, frail, and disposable, while men are “roof beams,” solid elements that hold up the structure of society. This book shows the progress of Chinese women in refuting that notion; reading it gives you a good sense of the enormous changes taking place in China.

  • Soulmuser
    2018-12-03 18:46

    After having read Xinran Xue's three other books, including The Good Women of China, and the haunting Sky Burial, I didn't have to think twice when I saw her latest offering, Miss Chopsticks, in the bookshop. Xinran writes with a lyrical style - and Miss Chopsticks, a feel-good novel, is engrossing to the end. Translated by Esther Tyldesley, the book traces the journey of three peasant girls, Three, Five and Six - so named because in China, the value of the girl-child is negligible, just numerical abstractions that fill the human landscape. They are called "chopsticks" and boys are called "roof beams," the implication being that chopstick girls are disposable, while boys are the support of a family, the center beam upon which it revolves.Xinran says that the novel is an imagined version of the lives of three peasants/migrants who she interviewed. Weaved together, they form the sisters, who leave their village for the big city of Nanjing. Struggling to cope in the frightening vastness of the city, they still manage to find work, love, and friendship amidst its harshness. Three works as in a quaintly-named restaurant called the Happy Fool, while Six, the more literate of the three, works in a teashop, that doubles up as a library. Five, the one I liked the best, considered by her father to be the "dumbest" so much so that she wasn't sent to school, finds work as an assistant in the Dragon Water-Culture Center. Often, the most evocative of the three, Five's character has more warmth, and achieves a level of tenderness that Three and Six fail to reach. Although well-received, Miss Chopsticks, is not below criticism - the uniform level of goodness that permeates the book sounds too unbelievable to be true. All of the sisters' employers are paragons of virtue - and seem to belie the 100s of stories that emerge from China everyday where migrant workers are underpaid, underfed, and cheated by ruthless bosses.Miss Chopsticks ends on a positive, uplifting note - but I can safely say that I have read better from Xinran.

  • Jackie Molloy
    2018-11-22 14:56

    The novel is about the lives of three girls born in a rural part of China into a family of six girls, the girls are not given names just numbers!. Girls were not valued at all and were referred to as ‘chopsticks’ while boys are known as ‘roof-beams’ – chopsticks are tools to be used up and discarded. The father of the family has no status in the village since he had produced only girls. This changed when his third daughter (named 3) is moved to the city to work, returning during her holiday with more money than any of the villagers had seen. 5 and 6 followed 3 to the city, returning like 3, with large amounts of money and gifts for the family and thereby lifting the status and prestige of the family.The main characters were 3, 5 and 6, and their employers. The three changed through their experiences in the city. 6, the intellectual, met many foreign students and learned of other cultures, 5 the one who was said to be not very bright, discovered many talents working at he Dragon Water Culture Centre and 3 discovered artistic talents. I liked all the characters but the sisters in particular because they were so innocent.It was a fast page turner because of the need to know what was happening to the three sisters as they adjusted to city life. The characters were very real and believable. They were based on people the author had met on her travels in China. I disliked to total lack of value placed on women and girls amongst the peasantry in modern day China.I liked the ending. The fathers final comment is ‘ is it possible that our chopstick girls will be able to hold up a roof?’

  • Libby
    2018-11-17 15:46

    Wow. It's taken a little to time to process everything that happened in Miss Chopsticks. If I read literature set in China {Chinese Cinderella, A Thousand Years Of Good Prayers, etc.} it so often feels like an alternate universe. There is a feeling of there being no link to the outside world but I felt that there was a sense of relatability in this book. Through Xinran incorporating 'bignoses' into the novel you could get this amazing view of how Chinese people actually felt when they were 'invaded', so to speak. Miss Chopsticks tells the story of Three, Five and Six. They and their three other sisters aren't given proper names, but instead named in the order of their birth. They seem to have a feeling of rebellion against their father who continually refers to his daughters as 'chopsticks', unnesscary and weak, and the sons he was never given as 'roof-beams', vital to life and the ultimate support. The daughters are barely respectable; who ever heard of a family with no sons? The father can barely keep face, and he is desperate to marry his daughters off. One is married, albeit not happily, and Two drowned herself on the wedding morning. Four is deaf and dumb, so that leaves Three Five and Six to bring back respect for the family. But these sisters don't want that way of life.They move to the city, get good jobs, make friends, and make money. They bring back the thousands of yuan and impress their father so much. It's a beautiful book, wonderfully translated.

  • Dorothyd
    2018-12-08 11:58

    L'histoire de trois sœurs chinoises venues en ville pour échapper à la campagne. Trois, Cinq et Six arrive à Nankin pour trouver du travail, elles qui n'ont aucune valeur aux yeux de leur père et du village d'où elles viennent (ce sont des baguettes, des filles et non des poutres, des garçons), vont essayer de faire de leur mieux pour s'en sortir.J'ai beaucoup apprécié ce roman, semi-biographique, puisque Xinran s'inspire de la vraie histoire de 3 jeunes filles pour l'écrire, cela se lit facilement. L'histoire peut paraître assez simple en général, mais j'ai trouvé cela très intéressant de voir comment ces trois jeunes filles d'une campagne très reculée (et arriérée) découvrir la ville chinoise des années 2000 et les évolutions qui ont eu lieu. Cela nous en apprend sur la société chinoise.Xinran termine son livre par un épilogue où elle raconte les nouvelles (parfois très courtes) qu'elle a eu des 3 jeunes filles dont elle s'est inspiré,(view spoiler)[ ce n'est pas très joyeux pour l'une d'entre elles, et on ne peut qu'avoir un peu d'espoir pour les deux autres, puisque Xinran a perdu contact. Cela m'a attristé de ne pas en savoir plus, mais cela montre tellement bien la réalité de la vie après tout!(hide spoiler)]J'ai aussi dans ma bibliothèque le livre "Chinoises" de Xinran, beaucoup plus connu que celui-ci, il va falloir que je m'y intéresse!