May 1, 2017 by Zoë
Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley follows Roshen, a Uyghur girl, who is forced to travel to southern China to work in a factory in order to keep her family’s farm safe. Life in the factory, however, is far from ideal, as Roshen and the other girls are forced to work long hours and are given little food. Discrimination against Muslims is also rampant and the girls struggle to survive.
The premise of the book is interesting: there aren’t a lot of books focused on minorities in China, and there really aren’t a lot of young adult books focused on this topic. The plot is also meshes well with the targeted audience and doesn’t get too graphic, though it does portray how bad life at the factory is.
This is obviously a book about a cause. The Uyghurs in China are treated very badly and Chinese factories are awful. For the most part, however, everything that happens could happen in any other sweatshop book set in any country or time period. Unfortunately, the plot does not manage to rise above the simple premise that working in a sweatshop is bad and that the girls are powerless to advocate for themselves.
Even the portrayal of Islam is overall quite lacking. There are references to headscarves, references to not eating pork, and one Muslim burial that is somewhat glossed over. However, there was not a lot of insight into Uyghur culture. There was also one weird moment when Roshen states that she doesn’t recognize a prayer that sounded a lot like the Muslim confession of faith. Maybe that’s accurate for how Uyghur people practice their faith? I don’t know, but it really stood out to me.
This isn’t a bad book, but also isn’t a particularly gripping book. It’s probably good for slightly younger teens looking to know more about the world, but it’s not the book for you if you’re looking for something more in-depth.
“Perhaps one day I will waken and find my way home.”