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Ginger vendor's memoir attracts spotlight

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

13:55, May 08, 2013

Yao Qizhong says his book is a gift to his children and encouragement for other migrant workers. (China Daily)

It was a dream come true for Yao Qizhong when his book Diary of a Ginger Vendor was published in March.

The 40-year-old Fuyang native, from Anhui province, was no different from other migrant workers who hailed from all over China to work in Beijing. But he became a media sensation in 2012 when he wrote a 200,000-word book about his life.

The book, published by Beijing TimesChinese Press, is a memoir about Yao's poverty-stricken childhood and his life as a migrant worker in Beijing after 2002.

"We learned about Yao's writing in mid-2012 when there was increasing media coverage about him a guy who barely finished primary school and yet wrote a memoir of tens of thousands of words," says Yu Genyong from the publishing house and also the editor of Yao's memoir.

Yu was curious about Yao even before meeting him. Yet he was also a little worried whether it would be a difficult job to publish Yao's stories.

When he read Yao's manuscript of 200,000 words for the first time, what impressed him most is Yao's clear and neat hand-writing.

"I've been in the publishing industry since 1998, and as long as I can remember, it was my first time to work on a manuscript that was totally hand-written."

Yao did most of his writing when he was selling ginger in a fresh market in Guang'anmen in Beijing.

Editors with the publishing house spent a whole week transferring the whole book into computer by typing it out word by word.

Yao's original idea was to write a movie script, so that his younger son, Yao Wuyi, may star in it in the future. The 15-year-old has been learning martial arts in Beijing for 10 years and has become very competent.

"We did not edit a lot of the content of his work," Yu explains. "His only flaw is there is too much repetition, and he is too emotional sometimes. But the good thing is, all his stories are very real. The writing is strong and very encouraging.

"In fact, it is much more affecting than the 'chicken soup for the soul' series in today's market," he says.

But Yao says his life has not changed much with the publication of the book.

"I've received proposals from quite a few TV crews and publishing houses. But I refused because I feel they are too commercialized," Yao says.

"What I want from publishing the book is, first, I want to leave something for my children to remember and cherish when they grow up. And second, to encourage migrant workers like me in this city to build up confidence and never give up on a bright future."

Yao says he was happy to work with Beijing TimesChinese Press, not only because the publishing house offered a professional proposal on publishing his book, but also because the company collaborates with the official publishing group in Anhui, which is Yao's hometown.

The publishing house has printed 30,000 copies of the book for the first printing, which have been well received.

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