Xinran, Chinese interviewer

Cool article about “China Wintess” author Xinran, a woman who earned the confidence of hundreds of Chinese women, despite strict censorship laws and cultural taboos against disclosing personal stories.

Friends warned her that Chinese people would not speak frankly about their suffering and would be unwilling to reveal their private, emotional responses to upheavals in China. But Xinran was the interviewer, and that made all the difference. From 1989 to 1997, she had a nightly radio program, Words on the Night Breeze, in which Chinese women phoned in to discuss their lives.

Her unusual manicure – one fingernail painted red, while all others are a transparent pink – is a reminder, she says, of how she got one of her early interviews. Make a mistake in your makeup, and women will come to you and say, “Silly girl, come here, can’t you see…” and before long you are deep in conversation and confidences.

Via my mom.

Reminds me of Canadian journalist & author Jan Wong, who used to pretend she didn’t understand how to work her own tape recorder in interviews. Her seeming incompetence disarmed her subjects, who then disclosed all kinds of intimate information to her. I can’t find a citation for that tidbit, but I vividly remember reading it years ago. Invisible prize to anyone who finds the quote, I guess.

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