Just had an email from Vietnam where the writer and journalist Lijia Zang has been holidaying with her daughters. 2009 was an exciting year for her.
January in Jaipur for a literature festival where she read from her memoir Socialism is Great. It is said that she is the first Chinese writer to be published by an Indian publisher. In March she spoke at an Asian Studies Conference in Chicago and her article on the legacy of Tiananmen was published in New York Times. I last saw Lijia in the summer after her writer's residency at Chateau Lavigny, outside Lausanne, on Lake Leman. It sounded magical but I was even more impressed when she became a fellow on the prestigious International Writing Program at University of Iowa in October (nominated by the US ambassador to China no less). Iowa is the grandmother of all creative writing courses - they started it back in the 30s and it still has an incredible reputation.
My favourite Lijia story occurred at a conference called China Forum organized by a French bank CLSA. She was interviewed by a senior guy from CLSA. Towards the end, he told her how much he enjoyed her book and asked if she would mind signing the copy he bought for Sarah Palin, who was also a guest speaker.
Lijia replied: “Not at all. It would be a pleasure. But does she read though?”
It won laughs from the audience but she suspects that she might have killed her chances of being invited back...