The words of women

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"We don't emphasize feminism. It's about women's lives, like housewives, their work and feelings-all kinds of female voices."

The stories in the book touch on various topics. They address such issues as parental relationships, philosophical thinking about the relationship between existence and language, surveillance society and self-reflections on the collective trauma caused by the violent earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan, in May 2008.

"These stories are not only about love and family but also about the bigger world," she says.

"So, I divided them into three groups according to three themes-love, secrets and beyond."

These themes, Zhang says, are not stereotypically female, which is one of her principles for compiling the book.

As a literary critic, Zhang finds that, although more young women are brave enough to write about their lives authentically, many purposefully shun cruel realities, especially commonplace domestic violence.

Female writers are generally very cautious when writing because, in the end, this is a male-dominated world, despite the fact that women's social status is improving, she says.

In March 2019, she conducted a poll among 60 male writers about their gender views. No male writer said they must abandon their gender consciousness in writing because gender is simply an immutable fact.

"Female writers are worried about their gender because, since the end of the 20th century, Chinese women's writing has been associated with their personal experiences. Whatever they write will be considered their own experience," she says.

"A lot of women writers at that time wrote stories about sex that they claimed were based on personal experiences so as to attract readers. As a result, this title, 'female writer', has since been stigmatized."

However, as writers, women should have the courage to break down prejudices and established norms to face the bloody reality, she says.

"I have confidence in young female writers. As women's social status improves, women writers will exist within a friendlier environment. I'm looking forward to great female writers, just like Eileen Chang's emergence in the 1930s, and more female writers who write about the lives of grassroots women," she says.

"We're looking forward to a time when women can write whatever they feel like, without worrying about their gender identity."

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