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Inconvenient Memories

​A Personal Account of the Tiananmen Square Incident and China Before and After

Inconvenient Memories is a rare and truthful memoir of a young woman's coming of age amid the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. In 1989, Anna Wang was one of a lucky few who worked for a Japanese company, Canon. She traveled each day between her grandmother's dilapidated commune-style apartment and an extravagant office just steps from Tiananmen Square. Her daily commute on Beijing's impossibly crowded buses brought into view the full spectrum of China's economic and social inequalities during the economic transition. When Tiananmen Protests broke out, her Japanese boss was concerned whether the protests would obstruct Canon's assembly plant in China, and she was sent to Tiananmen Square on a daily basis to take photos for her boss to analyze for evidence of turning tides. From the perspective as a member of the emerging middle class, she observed firsthand that Tiananmen Protests stemmed from Chinese people's longing for political freedom and their fear for the nascent market economy, an observation that readers have never come across from the various accounts of the historical events so far.

Beijing Women: Stories

Translated by Colin S. Hawes, Shuyu Kong

Beijing Women presents four short stories: “Lipstick,” “Qipao,” “Ginger,” and “Beijing Women”—stories about how contemporary Chinese women must learn to survive in China’s new market economy, and their inner struggles in a society full of moral ambiguity. These women come to Beijing to “advance themselves” or leave Beijing for the coastal economic zone of Hainan to explore new opportunities. They make their living in various ways: working as PR girls (a common euphemism for hostesses or escorts), as popular singers, waitresses, or private business owners—all professions that women in Maoist times had seldom heard about, but have had to adapt to in today’s consumer society. 

At a deeper level, these stories are about much more than just women’s lives and careers. Beijing here is a synecdoche for China, whose march toward capitalism at breakneck speed has changed peoples’ relationships profoundly. Stress, suspicion, anxiety, and exploitation make interpersonal communication and compassion difficult, and the constant competition for material gain tears apart the fabric of a society which, despite its faults, was at least rooted in traditional ethics and socialist idealism. This social and moral crisis is poignantly reflected in these stories.