Wednesday, November 7
My father gave me and my brother a little money. My stomach is all twisted up with hunger, but I don't want to spend the money on anything as frivolous as food. Because it's money my parents earn with their sweat and blood.
I have to study well so that I won't ever again be tortured by hunger. . . .
In a drought-stricken corner of rural China, an education can be the difference between a life of crushing poverty and the chance for a better future. But money is scarce, and the low wages paid for backbreaking work aren't always enough to pay school fees.
Ma Yan's heart-wrenching, honest diary chronicles her struggle to escape hardship and bring prosperity to her family through her persistent, sometimes desperate, attempts to continue her schooling.
First published in France in 2002, the diary of ma yan created an outpouring of support for this courageous teenager and others like her -- support that led to the creation of an international organization dedicated to helping these children . . . all because of one ordinary girl's extraordinary diary.
This affecting volume collects diary entries penned by a Hui Muslim girl living with her family in a single-room house in rural China. In his articulate introduction, Haski explains how Ma Yan's mother came to hand him the diary that her daughter (now 16) kept when she was 13 and 14. Ma Yan's illiterate mother, while suffering from an ulcer, undertook a job of hard labor hundreds of miles from home to pay for her daughter's education. The girl's determination to excel at school figures prominently in the entries: "I must work really hard in order to go to university later. Then I'll get a good job, and Mother and Father will at last have a happy life." Though frequent restatements of this goal, numerous references to Ma Yan's fear of disappointing her mother and recaps of similar classroom incidents make for rather repetitious reading, they do underscore the girl's extraordinary resolve, generosity of spirit and resilience. Many of the details will open youngsters' eyes (e.g., Ma Yan went without food for days to save money to buy a pen; each weekend, she and her brother walked more than 12 miles to and from school, where they boarded during the week and often went hungry). This heartfelt diary inspired the creation of the Association for the Children of Ningxia (to which a portion of the book's proceeds will be donated), dedicated to helping others like Ma Yan stay in school. Ages 10-up.