Lijia Zhang took off as a young, inexperienced author, glided through the performance brought from small hometown celebrity to national talk show host, and then went global as a regular guest at literary festivals around the world. And all under the auspices of one book, which took a long time to develop but gained widespread acclaim quickly. Not bad for a writer whose childhood dream of turning into a writer appeared to have been suffocated by a mother who presumed in a lifetime of the safe, state-sponsored daily grind and in bursting her daughter’s balloon.

Lijia is a writer, journalist, and public speaker from China. She explains herself as a public speaker between China and the rest of the world and has spoken at conferences about modern China. She has delivered lectures at Stanford, Harvard, and the University of Sydney. Zhang has aspired to be a writer since he was a child. Lijia dropped out of school at the age of 16 and began working in a factory. Lijia taught herself English during her ten years at the factory. Lijia received a master’s degree in creative writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2003. Zhang was able to marry Calum MacLeod, a British USA Today reporter. She relocated from Beijing to London with her two daughters in 2018.

Lijia’s articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. Her memoir, “Socialism Is Great!”: A Worker’s Memoir of the New China was published by Atlas & Co. and Random House and transcribed into seven languages. Lijia worked as a producer for the BBC crew covering the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Peschardt’s People were a BBC television documentary about her. She was a fellow in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2009, sponsored by the US Department of State. Lotus, her debut novel about prostitution set in modern-day Shenzhen, was published in 2017. She frequently appears on ABC, BBC, and CNN.

Lijia Zhang's book success

Lijia Zhang’s success as a book author means a lot to her fellow Chinese and all nationalities worldwide. According to Zhang, who lives in Beijing, “my self-appointed mission is to serve as a cultural bond between China and the rest of the countries in the world, assisting people in understanding where China is coming from and what is going on.”

Lijia Zhang stated, “China has grown far too essential to be ignored, yet there is so much misunderstanding and ignorance.” China is a writers’ and journalists’ paradise, and Beijing is a vibrant city. As with any society undergoing such rapid transformation, there will always be tension and drama – precisely what we want.”

Lijia Zhang's humble way of living

Some people would say most the well-known personality, wethers on screen, on stage, or in books, are very wealthy. Nonetheless, not all famous artists are like that. However, despite Lijia’s celebrity and wealth in her chosen career, she is one of the stars of the average life.

Lijia Zhang and her two young teenage daughters live on the city’s eastern edge of the town; she explains her home as “the kind of place known as a ‘village within the city,’ populated by migrant workers.” Most of my neighbors live in run-down apartments without water or heating access. I am fortunate to live in a lovely home with two bathrooms and a garden. Life here is impactful, and I do not anticipate any dramatic changes in the near future.”

Life before being a famous author

She majored in journalism. When she returned to China three years later, she began her career as a translator for foreign reporters before eventually becoming a journalist in her own right. It was difficult to write stories in English, but she chose to believe in having things unique to offer: her understanding of a culture that is still widely undefined outside of China. Her articles on China’s social, cultural, and political changes have appeared in the South China Morning Post, Far Eastern Economic Review, Japan Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, and The New York Times.

Lijia Zhang, as someone who is a dream chaser, never one to give up on a dream, Lijia Zhang went on to become a journalist. After meeting future USA Today reporter Calum MacLeod in Beijing, she moved to England as his fiancĂ©e in 1990 and studied creative writing at Goldsmiths College in London. When she returned home a few years later, she began her career in print media, working as an assistant to foreign journalists for publications such as The Observer, The New York Times, and Newsweek, among others. She can now be found in the studios of CBS, CNN, and the BBC, where she comments on Chinese topics of all kinds. She commented on timely gender issues. She said, “I believe the way women are treated reflects a lot about society.”

Working around the world

Traveling is very fun, not for the reason of working but for Lijia Zhang, it was amazing. The explanation is that as an author, you must share your book worldwide, which is what Lijia did.

Lijia Zhang said, “I travel a lot for business and pleasure – it is one of my passions,” she explained. “I used to live in such a small, confined world.” “Now that I am out of it, I am trying to make the most of this freedom,” Zhang added. Lijia Zhang also shared that during a recent trip to the United States, she “gave a breakfast talk at the Four Seasons Hotel to HSBC New York and some of its clients.” Then it was off to Chicago for “a discussion at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, where my focus was Xi Jinping.”

Lotus: One of Lijia Zhang's hit novels

NPR’s Book Concierge named Lotus one of the best books of 2017. Inspired by the author’s grandmother’s secret life, Lotus begins with a young woman troubled among both ancient traditions and contemporary aspirations as she tries to work out a life for herself in China’s “City of Sins.”

A bit story about the book, Lotus, influenced by the author’s grandmother’s deathbed discovery that she had been managed to sell to a brothel as a child, offers a clear understanding of China’s bustling underworld and uncovers the shocking strength found in those faced with impossible choices. Lijia Zhang’s Lotus, written with sympathy and vivid writing style, and packed with memorable characters, explores what it implies to be an ordinary person in a society that values restraint and conformity in its women.

“I am interested in prostitution because my grandmother was a working girl when she was younger,” Zhang tries to explain. “After becoming an orphan, she was sold into prostitution.” I have been fascinated by her secret since I discovered it on her deathbed in 1998, and I have often wondered how the girls deal with life.”

Lijia proved the goal of the story by providing solid pieces of evidence. Lijia said, “I made a concerted effort to befriend prostitutes, particularly a lady who is a former sex worker and now runs an NGO that assists street girls,” she says. “I worked for her organization, distributing condoms, talking with the girls, and learning a lot.”

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