Daughters of Shandong by Eve J. Chang

The plight of women after the communist takeover of China is the subject of this engaging story, based on the life of the author’s grandmother. The historic second-class status of women was not erased entirely by the social, cultural and political upheaval of Mao’s ascendancy.

Daughters of Shandong by Eve J. Chung
Hardcover | $28
Shop Indies!

After the Second World War China experienced epic changes that affected the lives of everyone, but particularly those whose privilege and status made them obvious targets for the worker-based society that the Maoists sought to create. However, the place of women in society, while making some measure of progress in recognizing equality was still rooted solidly in age-old misogynist attitudes. This is the story of a woman, a wife and mother, abandoned by her fleeing family because she was unable to produce a male heir. Her three daughters, one an infant, have been left to occupy the house and lands of a well-to-do dynasty typical of the “old” China. The expectation was that she would care for the estate and preserve it for the eventual return of the entire clan from what was to be a temporary relocation. It did not turn out that way and this is the story of the outcome. The basis of this novel is the experiences of the author’s grandmother, told to her and transformed into fiction.


A more engrossing story of courage and determination can hardly be imagined. Despite every possible barrier to her success, the protagonist perseveres heroically to save the lives of her daughters and return them to the family fold, even as a low-status wife. The eldest daughter who represents the role of family heir to the communist cadres who assault them after the flight of the bulk of the family is cruelly abused and demeaned, an ordeal that scars her, psychologically and physically for life. She is the prop and aid her mother needs in each crisis that confronts them. Hunger, captivity, exile and disease assail them time after time, and each time they emerge diminished but intact, due to the loyalty and love that binds them together. It is an engaging narrative that will doubtless have the reader enthralled and appalled, but never disinterested.


This is an example of how fiction can reveal truth and be entertaining, traits that make the art of writing such an important feature of culture. The events are imagined but based in reality and can be read as fact. All these things happened. The skill of the author brings it all to life in a way that sears the soul.