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Synopsis

As state control of private life in China has loosened since 1980, citizens have experienced an unprecedented family revolution�an overhaul of family structure, marital practices, and gender relationships. While the nuclear family has become a privileged realm of romance and individualism symbolizing the post-revolutionary �freedoms� of economic and affective autonomy, women�s roles in particular have been transformed, with the ideal �iron girl� of socialism replaced by the feminine, family-oriented �good wife and wise mother.�

Problems and contradictions in this new domestic culture have been exposed by China's soaring divorce rate. Reading popular �divorce narratives� in fiction, film, and TV drama, Hui Faye Xiao shows that the representation of marital discord has become a cultural battleground for competing ideologies within post-revolutionary China. While these narratives present women�s cultivation of wifely and maternal qualities as the cure for family disintegration and social unrest, Xiao shows that they in fact reflect a problematic resurgence of traditional gender roles and a powerful mode of control over supposedly autonomous private life.

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