Lijia Zhang

The “colourful trash” of capitalism began creeping into communist China in the early ’80s, not long after the death of Chairman Mao. Long hair and tight trousers on men were still forbidden, recalls Beijing-based journalist Lijia Zhang in “Socialism Is Great!” A Worker’s Memoir of the New China (Atlas & Co., $24). At 16, Zhang went to work in a missile factory (“a metallic orchestra of noise and industry around the clock”), all the while reading poetry and learning English with Carpenters records. Her growing political disillusionment led to academia, and the organization of a demonstration in her hometown of Nanjing in response to the Tiananmen Square clampdown. Zhang is a clear-eyed storyteller, both in her reportage (for NPR, Newsweek, and others) on child labor and the trafficking of women, and in this coming-of-age account. “Socialism Is Great!” is peppered with a teenager’s dark humor and bright recollections, like meeting Oxford student Calum MacLeod, her now-husband and co-editor of the 1999 interview compilation China Remembers. As Beijing prepares to present its thoroughly modern self at the Olympics this summer, the timing of Zhang’s memoir is impeccable. Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., 624-6600, Free. 7 p.m. KATE SILVER

Mon., April 28, 7 p.m., 2008

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