“It's a story that deserved to be told and shines light on a situation that should never have been allowed on American soil."
- Angelo Villagomez, the Saipan Blogger
Where is Saipan?
Located in the western Pacific ocean, a short flight from Guam and 4 hours from China, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a 15 island chain making up an archipelago that stretches 400 miles (north to south) along the edge of the Marianas Trench. Saipan, just 5 miles wide by 12 miles long, is the largest and most populated and is capital of the CNMI. Saipan was home to a thriving garment industry from the mid 1980s until the last garment factory closed in 2009. This is just one of the many amazing stories to be discovered on Saipan.
Chun Yu's Story
Ever wonder what it's really like to work in a garment factory?
What People Are Saying
"I have always been curious what factory life was like, and was excited when I saw this book. I have read on the Web about poor factory conditions and quality of life for companies that make parts for Apple computers. That is what sparked my interest. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down!"
— Robert H.
"This is a unique autobiography of a sweatshop worker.... ...an interesting read on a subject lots of people have strong opinions on but for which there exist few first hand accounts. (4 stars!)”
— Annmarie (Goodreads.com)
"Fascinating! Chicken Feathers takes us inside a world that was almost impossible to understand from the outside. This book is a great public service, but a great read as well."--
— David B. Cohen, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs (Mar 23, 2010)
"...It is a story that deserved to be told and shines a light on a situation that should never have been allowed on American soil. I recommend this one, especially if you want to know about Saipan at the turn of this century [2000-2009]. I imagine this book will grow in importance as the years go by. "-
— Angelo Villagomez, The Saipan Blogger (Jan 12, 2010)
"I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I read it in one sitting. You have such a fluid literary style and a generous spirit. Helping Chun fashion a story that takes us into corners of a world, we (transplanted Saipanians) were only able to glimpse at from the sidelines, was a wondrous gesture. It is a touching and illuminating cautionary tale. It reveals man's often shockingly selfish and callous nature, but, more importantly, celebrates the moments of human connection that make life the glorious journey that it is. Congrats, you both should be very proud of yourselves. All best to Chun, and to you on your latest journey."
— Dan Shor, award-winning actor and director, Shodavision ( Looking for America: a Saipan Story)
"Opportunity calls no matter where you are in the world. Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin is a memoir from Chun Yu Wang as she tells her tale of a Chinese woman looking for a better life and finding none of it. Wang offers an insightful look into Chinese culture, and the conditions that one often faces, as well as her decision to go to Saipan, where her struggles didn't improve. A tragic yet uplifting tale of spirit against adversity, "Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin" is a much recommended pick for any international memoir collection."
— Midwest Book Review (midwestbookreview.com)
"My Wife and I live on Saipan. She is a former garment worker like the author. I knew her job was somewhat as the author discribes. My wife feels the book is spot on!! We know many Thai, Philpinne, Mongolian women caught in pages of this book. I enjoyed it couldn't put it downand feel it is a must read for Americans purchasing desinger clothes."
— R.E. Jan 2010
"...presents an interesting, humanizing perspective, adding dimensions -- especially the role of overtime in these sweatshops -- not normally heard or anticipated by workers around the globe whose jobs have been lost to low-wage labor markets like Saipan ...."
—David Prosten, Unionist.com
After having lived on the island of Saipan for the past 13 years, and having more information than most about what goes on here, I thought I had a pretty good idea about the conditions in most of the garment factories. This story by Chun gives a candid look into what the reality of conditions in some of the factories were really like, and what it took to survive in that kind of an atmosphere. This story is about the inner strength of a person much like you or me, only one who probably didn't have many of the advantages that we had in our lives. This book will make you take a look at your life and reevaluate some things. Very good read and one that will make you look at some things differently!"
— Harry Blalock, KZMI-FM, Saipan
"Wow! I really savored this book! What a delightful read, it just pulled me right along. I couldn't put it down. Despite the sadness of the situation; the exposure to the greed and avarice and cruelty of one human to another, I was mesmerized by her desire to seek joy in her life, at every impasse. Very uplifting and sad at the same time. I was also delighted by her acknowledgement of her abilities. We women so often disregard our accomplishments and it was so nice to read that she knew she was good at what she does and takes pride in her abilities even if those around her do not. Her self confidence blended with her humility was enchanting.
Ms. Wang, thank you for getting this into print. I hope that this will be a best seller especially on Saipan! You should send a copy to every legislator and congressman who was or is in power. It should be an eye opener to them!"
—Ashley Uys, owner, Fu Dogs & Qi Antique Store
"...the book and all the efforts put into it were well overdue, and you and Chun did an amazing job. Chun is a very special person for standing up and telling her story."
— P. Tulloch, Radio Labour Program, Canada
"Not everyone may have come across the title, Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin.... But it's worth paying attention to. It is a first-person account by the author, Wang Chun Yu, of her experiences in working in six different garment factories on Saipan over a period of eight years. She doesn't get dramatic; she doesn't get maudlin (self-pitying) either; she just tells her story, in very straight-forward fashion: what is involved in getting a job, how the politics work inside the factory, what life in barracks is like, how she survived. It's quite a fascinating, eye-opening read. It's also rather revealing in regard to the outlook that many of the Chinese garment factory workers apparently had. There's a degree of stoicism (the ability to endure "pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint," according to the New Oxford American Dictionary , 2d edition) not usually found in Western - or at least American - circles. The reader can only admire her and her fellow workers for all the hours of over-time they put in so consistently, the abuses they endured so meekly. One might think that since garment factories are no longer operating here [on Saipan], the issues don't matter any more - it's all past history. But as stated in the epilogue, "As long as there is a quest for higher profits, a need for cheap labor in order to satisfy an insatiable demand for consumer goods, then the roar of planes carrying hopeful workers, the hum of the sewing machines, the din of voices on factory floors and inside barracks and cafeterias continues [sic]. The triumph, the pain, the fear and hope.....do[es] not end happily ever after...but in reality, and in a real life lived by millions of real girls every single day," they do, "in fact, continue." A very sobering thought."
—Ruth Tighe, On My Mind e-Newsletter
"This precise, sensitive, well-written book says it all about the young people who venture forth to foreign lands to follow their dreams and to help support their families in their home countries. I t takes ambition and courage, which this young woman has to the nth dregree, to outrun "the tigers behind her' and to face "the wolves" in front of her. This diary is Chun's eight-year journey through many different garment factories on Saipan, and told through her own eyes, and not dressed up by some PR specialist or some activist group. This is her personal story told in her own words, and a very special story it is. You'll also meet some of her worthy friends. Hurray for Chun, and may your dreams come true. Thanx for sharing. I refer readers to John Bowe's "Nobodies", where he discusses (also pages and interviews about labor conditions on Saipan) the so-called throw-away people in other industries needing cheap labor, whom are treated much the same disgraceful way as Chun, and some cases, worse."
— Joseph Race, author of Moon over Manila
"What an eye-opener to the garment industry! The author willingly endured so many things that we snobby Americans workers would NEVER tolerate (but we'll wear the clothes created in that enviroment). A facinating peek into the industry. The author shows the garment industry from a very different perspective-- from the eyes of a woman seeking to leave her homeland to make her fortune. A view from the very bottom of the world's economic food chain. It is a sad but real story told in a simple but beautiful manner. I read it in one afternoon/evening because I couldn't put it down." Everyone who wears clothes, or has ever heard of Saipan should read this book. THIS is the garment industry of the Jack Abramoff scandals."
—Dianne (Amazon website)
"I'm half way through the book, and just as Harry said, I too feel like I've gotten to know Chun. The title is fitting and the book is "unputdownable!" Thoughts of the story even occupied my meditating thoughts during yesterday's XTERRA race here on Saipan. (You know, the stuff one thinks about in order to keep going in an endurance race?). I'm getting my wife to read it when I'm through." Chun, you have great courage. Thank you for sharing your story and giving us a peek into your life. May your story continue to become happier and happier as each new chapter reveals itself. p.s. I took a stroll to saipanfactorygirl.com just to revisit the video of the factory line and, now after reading, it now all looks familiar. Because of Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin, I have indeed been there!"
—-Lewie Tenorio, Program Director, KZMI-FM
"After reading Chun's tale of how she arrived on Saipan from China I have been given an intimate glimpse of the trials and struggles of the garment factory workers in the world. I feel awed at the bravery and determination of the young women and men who left their homes in order to support their families; I also feel disgust at the harshness and cruelty in which they were treated. Chun, I hope everyone has a chance to hear your poignant story which I am sure, is the story of many women in the world today. Truly Chicken Feathers & Garlic Skin touched my heart, my mind and my humanity. Thank you."
— Kiri Jackson
"I am reading your book now and deeply humbled by your story. I am an American teacher in Japan teaching 4th grade. I visited Beijing last fall with my family. I have been reading books by Ting Xing-Ye this summer and am very interested in learning more about Chinese girls lives in China. God Bless all your hard work and all the girls that worked and still work so hard in factories abroad. I hope that you are doing well."
"I know Chun (on her new job) and others like her, and what amazes me is their strength and courage to leave home into the unknown for possibly a better life and to send financial support back to their families. Imagine if you will, you are going to work in China with a different culture and language, and on the faith of what your labor recruiter told you, and then when you get there, be subjected to hours and days of confusion, changes of rules, and general hassle. Chun wrote a good account, and it was probably a catharsis in a way, to keep her sane and moving forward in a productive manner. Just like the song "I Will Survive" and Chun did. Good for her and the other garment workers that have prospered and progressed, some of whom blended successfully into the American way of life."
— salvacion mendiola
"This is Marlon of Bestseller Bookstore. This is to inquire if you could send us copies of the book Chicken feathers and Garlic Skin. I would love to have and sell it here at Bestseller... The Consul General of Philippine Consulate is requesting at least 2-copies of the book (he's one of my customers who buys the book and shares it to other Philippine Consulate Posts). Since the Phil. Consulate here will be closing this October and he's leaving on the 15th for another post. He would like to bring copies to give as a token to other posts."
—Marlon, Bestseller Books, Saipan
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