The Li family farms atop Liu Jia Yu, a tiny village in the Mengyi Mountains of Shandong province. Like 750 million other Chinese peasants, their family lives in poverty. Compounding their financial troubles, they have two daughters and no sons.

That’s significant because life in their village has long been defined by hard labor. Everything there is done by hand. But outside the village, modern China is increasingly defined by two necessities: education and money. That’s putting new pressures on gender roles, family and rural life.

Now the Li’s oldest daughter is a star student at one of the best high schools in the county. She is poised to become the first person in her family to attend college. In order to get there, she’ll need to overcome her family’s poverty and their inability to see a woman as a provider.

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