Lijia Zhang is the author of Socialism Is Great!: A Worker's Memoir of the New China.
She answered some questions from Nicole Barnes for the China Beat, including:
NB: As a freelance journalist, you seem to have a lot of control over your topics. Your articles cover the most pressing social issues--child labor, kidnapped brides, and rural suicide rates--as well as the side effects of economic growth--migrating sand dunes, sexual liberation, and the "toilet revolution". What draws you to your topics?Read the entire interview.
LZ: First of all, let me stress that I don't write for domestic publications, which means I don't have to exercise self-censorship. I am a freelancer. I chose to write subjects that interest me. Coming from a lower social background, I like to focus on the 'little people's struggle, child labour, physically and emotionally displaced migrants and rural women. I also like to write stories that illustrate the changes the society is going through; all are very human stories.
NB: You write both journalistic articles and fiction so beautifully, in your non-native English. Do you ever find that the journalist and novelist in you struggle for dominance? How do you balance the two distinct styles in your professional life?
LZ: Very good question. When I was young, I dreamt about becoming a writer and a journalist – in fact, I didn't quite understand the difference between the two. Now I do. To start with, it is too difficult to make a living from book writing, so I have to work as a journalist. Actually, I love being a journalist. People's lives always fascinate me and I do meet a lot of interesting people through my work. Also, book writing is such a huge undertaking and a solitary practice. I enjoy the social aspect of journalistic work. Indeed, they can be complimentary to each other. I wrote a long feature on the issue of trafficking women – women being kidnapped and sold as wives to farmers– and I am pondering about making that the subject of my next book.
Visit Lijia Zhang's website.