Meet the Migrant Helper Who Just Became ‘China’s Hottest Writer’

An essay written by a 44-year-old Beijing migrant worker has taken Chinese social media by storm for its striking voice that resonated with the experiences of many.

Little did Fan Yusu know that her autobiography, simply titled “I Am Fan Yusu”, would be shared more than 100,000 times within 24 hours of its posting last week. After all, she was just trying to chill in her spare time as a domestic helper.

Fan posted her 7,000-word essay on NoonStory, a public account on WeChat that publishes original work by both professional and amateur writers, Sixth Tone noted. Since then, press requests have been lining up at her doorstep.

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The sudden fame overwhelmed Fan so much that she reportedly decided to hide in the mountains and let it all cool down. South China Morning Post recently labeled her as “China’s hottest writer.”

In her essay, Fan chronicled her struggles as a rural woman trying to build her dreams in the big city. Her narrative captured the hearts of Chinese netizens, especially other migrant workers, who battle discrimination from native urban dwellers and occupational mistreatment.

While the essay has already been deleted for having politically-charged themes, it was quickly reproduced by users who echoed her sentiments.

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Fan also shared her coming-of-age story. Born as one of five children in an impoverished village near Hubei Province’s Xiangyang, she started to work as a local teacher at the age of 12. She read Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations”, as well as the works of Daniel Defoe, Jules Verne, Maxim Gorky and local author Jin Jingmai.

At 20, Fan, who also wrote poetry, moved to Beijing to start a new life. She recalled in her essay:

“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.”

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Fan married a man in Beijing and they had two daughters. However, her husband turned out to be alcoholic and abused her.

“He became drunk and violent. I couldn’t bear his domestic violence any longer and decided to take my two kids back to my hometown,” Fan wrote.

Unfortunately, Fan was not welcomed by her brothers who argued that “a married daughter is no longer a member of her parents’ family.” It was only her mother who accepted her wholeheartedly, according to What’s on Weibo.

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With a heavy heart, she returned to Beijing and worked as a helper for a rich family. She summarized her life:

“My life is like a miserable and touching book. Fate has bound me in an utterly clumsy way.”

While Fan had not imagined herself to be catapulted to literary stardom, a former teacher acknowledged her ability. According to The Guardian, Zhang Huiyu, a literature professor who taught her in a class with a group of migrant workers, said that her “sincere and simple words” struck a chord with ordinary people.

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“These days people are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life but Fan Yusu’s story shows us the beautiful and romantic side of life,” Huiyu said.

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