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Shanghai Baby

Shanghai Baby - Weihui Zhou why is this book so hated? 3.21 according to GR statistics makes it one of the most despised books on the website...

Shanghai Baby was famously banned in China, and although failing to reach any huge level of greatness, clearly illustrates the character's self-centred after-every-expat nature. but this seems to be Shanghai in general. a complete destruction of this city would not turn it into Jerusalem. to some degree, criticism of the book is deserved in that it reflects the sort of "worst stereotype" of the economically disadvantaged, low class Shanghai girl, who is, as the repeated criticism goes "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, a german guy, a german guy, a german guy, his d--k is soooo big! and my chinese boyfriend is soooo unable to satisfy me." and separately, Zhou reveals her lack of social awareness by her idea that "the Shanghai American School" is where true classiness resides (her new york equivalent would of course not hang out at, say, brearley or chapin). her usage of english idiom is in many ways a reflection of mandarin-speakers' english.

however, narratologically speaking, Shanghai Baby does not deserve the 3.21. it is taut; its flaws are telling and amusing; and the writing is never vague or unnecessary; it gets the 3.21 to some degree from the Western female audience members who despise that perpetual entrant to social circles, the green-card chasing, white-male chasing chinese girl, and that's not really fair to blame the book for the girl. in other words, most readers are female (for every book, not just this one), and there is a recognized social phenomenon, that in a group of thirty people in the west, there may be one chinese girl whose father does not make that much cash, but whose social status is pretty high because she's slim and pretty, and that disrupts the "dating market" so to speak. whereas without this chinese girl, western girl #1 would date western boy #1, and so on down the line, instead, western girl #1 still dates western boy #1, but western girl #2 has to date western boy #3 because the chinese girl is "taking" the 2nd western boy, with the power differential cascading down the rank and leaving the final western female fat, lonely, and eating ice cream out of the carton on friday night.

to the degree that one's "social category" defines one (and sort of a reclusive writer myself), this supposed pattern is clear to me without eliciting any sort of rage or desire to punish the chinese girl who conforms to the stereotype. I don't "punish" this book because the author buys plainly into the stereotype of chinese female behaviour in western social circles. apparently the chinese government itself is outraged, but that is just a reflection of the chinese government, not an actual analysis of the book on literary merits, and much, of course, in life is happening below the surface. finally, of course, seeking to be the enfant terrible of shanghai society can only be encouraged by numerous hate-reviews, you are buying into Zhou's desire for attention by pouring out the hate all over this GR entry.

instead, what is useful is to analyze the book on its ability to weave plot and detail, as well as provide insight into the thinking of the "Chinese bar-girl" mentality. it's a good book! turn off the hate!