On The China Beat, website founder Jeffrey Wasserstrom interviews VQR contributor Mara Hvistendahl about Google’s threat to pull out of China. She closes the interview with the news that she’s writing a book based on “Half the Sky: How China’s Gender Imbalance Threatens Its Future,” from our Fall 2008 issue:
JW: I’ve heard you are working on a book. Since we’ve pointed our readers to articles you’ve done in venues like the Chronicle of Higher Education and the New Republic, I think some of them would be very interested in seeing that longer work when it comes out. Can you tell us any details about the topic, the publisher, and when it is due out?
MH: My book is called The X-Y Problem, and it’s a narrative nonfiction work about sex selection and gender imbalance in Asia and Eastern Europe. It will be published in 2011 by Public Affairs.
The book grew out of a feature I wrote for Virginia Quarterly Review on China’s sex-ratio imbalance. I reported the piece in a Jiangsu province county where the sex ratio at birth is 152 boys born for every 100 girls, according to recent Family Planning Commission data. Later I expanded my research to India, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Caucasus countries.
Most journalism on this topic tends to focus on the cultural traditions that encourage son preference. I instead emphasize the link between sex-ratio imbalance and economic development – and connect what’s happening in Asia to new sex selection technologies in the West. I also look at the pernicious side-effects of tens of millions of “surplus” males: an increase in international marriage brokering, sex trafficking, and other forms of instability.