August 23rd, 2005


The Diary of Ma Yan

We're publishing a biography of Gauss meant for a middle-school audience. We had the transmittal meeting yesterday (where the files get transmitted from editorial to production and any things about the book that might be issues for production are discussed), and it came out that we needed to think about the design of the book, things like type size, whether to number the chapters, and cover design, since we don't normally publish books for this audience. I volunteered to stop by the library on my way home last night to pick up some biographies for kids.

I grabbed a number of books from the biography section of the young-adult room at the BPL. I was looking for books on one person, since that's what our book is, but most of what they had were books on groups of people (Famous Puerto Ricans, Outrageous Women of the Middle Ages, and stuff like that), so I just grabbed some of everything.

On the subway (after bidding adieu to my subway companion), I started flipping through the books, checking out their design. The second book I looked at was The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl. The flap copy made me want to read the book, so I did. The diary was given to a French journalist by Ma Yan's mother when the journalist was visiting an extremely poor area of China. He wrote some articles about the diary, and it was eventually published in book form in French (translated from Chinese), and then it was translated into English.

I finished it up as I was walking to work today, and I cried at the end. What made me cry was not the description of how hungry she usually was or of how she must work harder and harder in school in order to make her parents' sacrifices mean something. It was how people who read the articles and the book helped her and other children in that area of China.

After having such a shit-ass day yesterday, it was really nice to be so incredibly moved by a book. And it makes me feel good about my job, too, reminding me that publishing books is a worthwhile thing to do.