Author Lijia Zhang Shares Inspiration Behind Novel, Lotus

As her grandmother lay on her death bed, Lijia Zhang's mother revealed a long-kept family secret.

Flash forward several decades to January 1, 2017. Lijia published her first fiction novel, Lotus, a tale of life as a working girl in China that is loosely based on the life of her grandmother, a mistress and concubine. The novel explores the secret life of a young woman who is torn between traditions and modern desires.

At Western Academy of Beijing on Tuesday evening, the rocket factory worker turned author and social commentator talked about the process of writing her first fiction work, the inspiration behind her story, and her plans going forward.

Lijia traveled to Dongguan and several other cities throughout China, learning about the lifestyle of young women like her grandmother, many of whom were simply trying to earn a wage to support their families. She faced challenges, like losing access to her sources as they moved quickly in and out of towns and salons. But this was a story she wanted to tell.

Prior to writing her book, Lijia was a research volunteer for a non-governmental organization that focused on providing resources for sexual health to women. Her experience working with the NGO furthered her drive to tell the stories of these women, a story often unheard and misunderstood.

Lijia has long been a telling stories and providing commentary on social issues, often times in published works and interviews for major news organizations like the BBC, CNN, The Guardian and The New York Times.

At WAB on Tuesday night, she gave the audience a sneak-peak into her next story – a non-fiction.

"In my next book, I will borrow all of these tricks that I learned while writing fiction, like setting the scene and creating suspense," Lijia said. "But this one will be a true story about the 61 million 'leftover children' in China."

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