The Good Girl of Chinatown

The Good Girl of Chinatown

By  Jenevieve Chang

A true story of cultural clash and hedonism gone awry as a good girl from a conservative Chinese-Australian family becomes a Shanghai showgirl.

‘Jenevieve Chang is a natural storyteller, and her absorbing memoir – spanning China, Britain and Australia – is told with grace, precision and unmatched elegance.’ Benjamin Law

From Sydney suburbia to the grey clouds of London, Jenevieve Chang has been running away for as long as she can remember. Now – along with other Westerners trying to escape the 2008 GFC – she has arrived in Shanghai, a city from her family’s past. But this glittering metropolis once known as the ‘Whore of the Orient’ throws up more hurdles than she bargains for.

As her marriage collapses and she struggles to fit in with this over-the-top new world, Jenevieve searches for a place to call home. And then she finds it: Chinatown, Shanghai’s first Vaudeville, Variety and Burlesque Club. She will remake herself as one of the Chinatown Dolls, the most sought-after showgirls in town.

When the club begins to spectacularly derail, though, and with memories of the past pressing in, Jenevieve finds herself more lost than ever. Struggling with her identity amid the hedonism and history of Shanghai, she realises that she’s following in the footsteps of her parents and her grandparents in unexpected ways she hadn’t realised. Now she must decide between the pleasure of propping up illusions or the possible redemption of facing up to her past.

Vibrant, bold and raw, The Good Girl of Chinatown is a memoir weaving multiple narratives across three generations and continents. It is a story about the boundaries we choose to cross and the roles we choose to play. And it is a story about family and the ways we try – but sometimes fail – to be good for them.

'Jenevieve weaves together a story of intergenerational trauma, loss and culture into an unexpectedly wild journey across the world. You will find her vulnerability and spirit hard to put down.' Deng Adut, author of Songs of a War Boy

'I was blown away by Jenevieve Chang's beautiful, ballsy memoir. Gorgeously written and fascinating . . . she's a natural storyteller.' Leanne Hall, author of This is Shyness

'Gripping, honest and brave, Jenevieve’s memoir gives a uniquely personal insight into the hidden hedonism of modern day China and a life lived between cultures.' Clare Atkins, author of Nona and Me

Format & Editions

Trade Paperback

9780670078516

May 1, 2017

Viking (AU Adult)

RRP $32.99

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Find your local Bookstore at booksellers.org.au

EBook

9781760140786

May 1, 2017

Penguin eBooks (AU Adult)

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Extract

SHANGHAI, 2010

I wake up naked and alone. Last night’s dress is a pool of tarnished glitter at the foot of the bed. My brain feels like it’s had a saw run over it, jagged teeth scraping across soft grey matter.

I lift my eyes from a make-up smeared pillow to meet the ambiv­alent gaze of my adopted street cat, Caspian. If only cats could talk. I wonder how I got home. Fragments of the last twelve hours come to me: my climactic stage turn, a round of champagne cocktails, a sea of hungry eyes . . . and then the canopy of unconsciousness from which I am now painfully emerging.

The wall clock reads 9 a.m. I have to be at work in an hour! I think through a foggy cloud. I summon shreds of a dancer’s discipline to pull myself out of bed. Smoggy light spins like a disco ball as the honks of traffic float up twenty-one floors of glass and concrete. I try to stop my legs from buckling as my feet touch the floor.