The University of Wisconsin Press

Autobiography / Asian Studies / Women’s Studies


When “I” Was Born
Women’s Autobiography in Modern China
ing M. Wang

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography

“Chinese women’s autobiography reveals what stories were told and what stories were silenced.”—Jing M. Wang

In the period between the 1920s and 1940s, a genre emerged in Chinese literature that would reveal crucial contradictions in Chinese culture that still exist today. At a time of intense political conflict, Chinese women began to write autobiography, a genre that focused on personal identity and self-exploration rather than the national, collective identity that the country was championing.

When “I” Was Born: Women’s Autobiography in Modern China reclaims the voices of these particular writers, voices that have been misinterpreted and overlooked for decades. Tracing women writers as they move from autobiographical fiction, often self-revelatory and personal, to explicit autobiographies that focused on women’s roles in public life, Jing M. Wang reveals the factors that propelled this literary movement, the roles that liberal translators and their renditions of Western life stories played, and the way in which these women writers redefined writing and gender in the stories they told. But Wang reveals another story as well: the evolving history and identity of women in modern Chinese society. When “I” Was Born adds to a growing body of important work in Chinese history and culture, women’s studies, and autobiography in a global context.

Writers discussed include Xie Bingying, Zhang Ailing, Yu Yinzi, Fei Pu, Lu Meiyen, Feng Heyi, Ye Qian, Bai Wei, Shi Wen, Fan Xiulin, Su Xuelin, and Lu Yin.

“These are important historical and literary materials, many of which are made available for the first time in scholarly discourse in relation to history, gender, and autobiography.” —Lingzhen Wang, Brown University

“Explores the interesting question of why women’s autobiographical writing emerged at a particular period in war-torn Republican-era China, a moment when national survival was high on the agenda of politically engaged intellectuals and personal self-revelation was considered self-indulgent and irrelevant.” —Gail Hershatter, University of California, Santa Cruz

Jing M. Wang is assistant professor of Chinese literature and language at Colgate University. Her books include Ying shi ru men (How to Read English Poetry) and Jumping through Hoops: Autobiographical Stories by Modern Chinese Women Writers.

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

This book was published with the assistance of a publication grant awarded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange.

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Of Related Interest
Women, Autobiography, Theory
A Reader
A Reader Edited by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson

the cover of Wang's book is red, with a woman in shadow standing in front of a wall of Chinese characters.

May 2008
LC: 2007040018 PL
232 pp.  6 x 9

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Cloth $65.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22510-0
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Updated June 14, 2011

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