Sheng Keyi

Northern Girls: Life Goes On, 2012 Longlist

Translated by Shelly Bryant

Sheng Keyi had a rural upbringing and writes of the migrant experience with the depth of personal insight: she was born in Hunan and is now living in Beijing after several years spent living in Shenzhen. Through her writing, she addresses the issues that affect women in China today, and her highly literary writing often experiments with style and voice. A multi-prizewinning author in Chinese, Northern Girls will be the first of her works to be published in English.

Northern Girls is set in the late 1990s, China is hit by a wave of industrial change and droves of young people from the countryside are making their way across the vast country to the new cities that are shooting up, seemingly overnight, on every street corner, in search of a better life. 

In the wake of a family scandal, sixteen-year-old Qian Xiaohong abandons her Hunan village and heads for the glitz and glamour of Shenzhen. This new metropolis is the perfect antidote for a young woman seeking to flee a stifling rural community. But Xiaohong swiftly discovers this escape brings its own dangers, and the vulnerability and violence that greet the arrival of hopeful migrants to the city are brought into devastatingly stark focus. 

Solace and salvation appear in the form of Xiaohong’s fellow migrants – the northern girls, newly arrived from China’s hinterland and also drawn by the city’s neon skyline. Without the safety net of education or state welfare, and exposed to the roving eyes of predators, they must band together or face being sucked into the moral maelstrom that development has unleashed.


Penguin China, Penguin

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Penguin Books Australia