What We Are Reading Today: Factory Girls by E. Patricia Tsurumi

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Updated 07 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Factory Girls by E. Patricia Tsurumi

Investigating the enormous contribution made by female textile workers to early industrialization in Meiji Japan, Patricia Tsurumi vividly documents not only their hardships but also their triumphs. While their skills and long hours created profits for factory owners that in turn benefited the state, the labor of these women and girls enabled their tenant farming families to continue paying high rents in the countryside. 

Tsurumi shows that through their experiences as Japan’s first modern factory workers, these “factory girls” developed an identity that played a crucial role in the history of the Japanese working class. Much of this story is based on records the factory girls themselves left behind, including their songs. “It is a delight to receive a meticulous and comprehensive volume on the plight of women who pioneered (assembly plant) employment in Asia a century ago ….” — L. L. Cornell, The Journal of Asian Studies “Tsurumi writes of these rural women with compassion and treats them as sentient, valuable individuals …. [Many] readers will find these pages informative and thought provoking.” — Sally Ann Hastings, Monumenta Niponica.


What We Are Reading Today: Conditional Citizens

Updated 26 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Conditional Citizens

Author Laila Lalami structures Conditional Citizens as a series of personal vignettes and historical dives that are more broad than deep.
Lalami was born in Morocco and came to the US for graduate school. She stayed because she fell in love with an American, whom she married.
“Conditional citizens, in Lalami’s account, are not allowed to dissent or question the choices of their government; if they do, they are viewed with suspicion, their allegiance to their new country questioned. Conditional citizens also have less freedom of movement,” said Sonia Nazario in a review for The New York Times.
Lalami “is less insightful when she widens her lens to argue that all minorities in the United States — including people born here but of a race, faith or gender not shared by the dominant majority — are discriminated against by their government and others, a heavily worn argument,” Nazario added.
“While her book convincingly lays out the inequalities among citizens, she’s woefully short on remedies and specific ideas for achieving change,” the review said.