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Word Count: 637
it is Mary weeping quietly at her husbands infidelity in a Hong Kong apartment a cheap imitation leather handbag in her lap who offers the most telling image in Louise Williamss gentle exploration of the lives of Asian women Here alongside the likes of Benazir Bhutto and Aung San Suu Kyi and the young prostitutes and mistresses and maids all with dramatic and often horrific stories to tell the sly repression of Marys life speaks volumes about the ordinary brutalities and inequalities faced by so many women across the region Born looking like her father Mary was shunned by her own mother after he ran away from home Desperate to escape an unhappy home life she married young and worked briefly as an embroiderer before giving birth to two children She stopped work Her husbands occasional infidelities increased She caught one sexually transmitted disease then another Her husband stayed away from home more and more gaining status and prestige from the string of young mistresses and other wives he found across the border in China Marys status slipped In her tiny apartment in the chaos of a Hong Kong high- rise she weeps for a wasted life and a loveless marriage and a society that has branded her a cast-off Louise Williams a veteran foreign correspondent and award-winning reporter in her native Australia has done the honourable thing with this book and allowed the women to talk By doing so she has managed to dispel what she calls the entrenched clichs which have surrounded Asian women Oriental beauties manipulative Asian sex goddesses mail-order brides victims of the sex industry Right across the region women occupy positions of extraordinary power and excruciating powerlessness Williams notes early on So she takes us to Nguyen Thi Chien the Vietnamese guerrilla commander who led a team of women soldiers against the French in Vietnam and Corazon Aquino still fighting for a better deal and a better life in
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