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February 2019: Lijia Zhang

  • Lijia Zhang was born in Nanjing, and worked in a rocket factory, where she began teaching herself English. She studied journalism in England, and her book Socialism is Great! A Worker’s Memoir of the New China is a memoir of her time working in a factory in the 1980s, also reflecting the great social transformation in China in the reform era. Today she writes regularly for international publications and appears as a social commentator on international news networks. Her first novel, Lotus, was published by Macmillan in 2017.

This month we're delighted to feature a story by Lijia - 'Permission' - which was first published as part of Cathay Pacific's Silkroad magazine and fiction anthology. You can also read an interview with Lijia from the magazine here.

Inspired by the secret life of the author’s grandmother, Lotus follows a young woman torn between past traditions and modern desires. We will shortly be featuring the novel on our Book Review Network.

Now why did I pick this rather unusual topic? It was inspired by a deathbed revelation that my grandma was a prostitute in her youth. And I think prostitution touches upon some serious social issues such as the urban rural divide and the growing gender inequality between men and women, and the tug of war between tradition and modernity. Also I think that a brothel is a good stage for a novel because moral dilemma often lies at the heart of a human drama.

- From an interview with the Beijing Bookworm.

We're also really looking forward to welcoming Lijia to Leeds on Friday February 8th, along with author Yan Ge, as part of our event 'Women in China: Fictions and Realities'. The event is free, and everyone is welcome, but please book on our Eventbrite page.