A domestic help’s essay on her life and travails as a migrant worker in Beijing has made her the hottest new writer in China, with hundreds of thousands of web users commenting and sharing her work.
I am Fan Yusu, written by Fan, was posted on a literary website last week and literally became an overnight sensation. Written in easy, colloquial language by the middle school graduate, neither her family nor Fan herself expected the 7,000-word essay to be such a hit.
In simple words, she describes three decades of her life — migrating from a village to Beijing, raising two daughters and working at the palatial house of a rich man’s mistress.
Even the state media, including People’s Daily, reviewed it, though the essay was in parts disarmingly critical of Chinese society, increasing income inequality, seizure of farmland and the plight of hundreds of millions of faceless migrant workers who have built China’s growth.
In 2014, Fan enrolled in a “literary class organised among migrant workers in Picun, a suburban village, a 15-minute drive away from the Beijing Capital International Airport” and spent an entire year attending the Sunday evening class. With the help of a volunteer, Fan then posted her work online.
Fan comes from a village near Xiangyang in Hubei province and started to work as a teacher at the local village school when she was 12, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said.
“I couldn’t endure the dull life in the countryside, like watching the sky above from the bottom of a well. So I came to Beijing. I wanted to see the big world,” she wrote
About her two daughters, she wrote they have to educate themselves well to avoid “becoming a screw in the world’s factory or a soulless terracotta warrior on an assembly line”.
She bought 500 kg of books secondhand for them to read. Her elder daughter started to take odd jobs at the age of 14, but is now a “white-collar worker with annual income of 90,000 Yuan (around Rs 840,000)”.
“We must not ignore the personal suffering and social problems depicted in the essay, such as education for children of migrant workers and compensation for farming land,” the People’s Daily said in its review.
Fan has possibly just begun. According to state media, she is about to publish a novel —a mythological story developed from real life in her hometown.