"I can hear the mosquitoes buzzing around my ears and feel the leeches sucking the blood from my calves. I think of planting rice shoots in the paddies with my bare feet deep in the mud. I'm only 33, but I've faced enough for a hundred lifetimes," says Aisling Juanjuan Shen, describing her povertystricken childhood in rural China.
Shen , a peasant girl whose illiterate parents psychologically abuse her, is ostracized by her neighbors. As a result, she dreams about leaving the hamlet. Shen f inds solace in schoolwork, while she dreams of a better life, and she becomes the best student in her class. Shen rises to prominence; she becomes the first person in her village to attend college.
As a college student, Shen is "one of God's superior children," who is guaranteed a job for life by the Chinese Government. Her hopes are dashed, though, when she realizes the school is a two-year vocational teachers college — and that she will have to work in a backwoods village after graduation. Determined to escape rural village life, Shen leaves the stability of the government-assigned teaching post and bravely ventures to southern China in search of wealth and happiness. She constantly switches jobs, some of which require her to do unethical things, for better pay, by using her English — and by moving from man to man.
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