From school dropout to universal appeal

Updated: 2014-03-25 12:28

By May Zhou in Houston (China Daily USA)

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Born in 1970 in rural China and growing up through hardship, Zhao Meiping could only afford formal education through elementary school. She had to drop out and go to work in a quarry when she was 12 years old. Yet she strived and thrived, eventually becoming an editor at a magazine in China.

Now, she has told her life story in an autobiography entitled Whose Struggle Did Not Incur Injury. On Saturday, community leaders and a crowd of book lovers gathered at Houston's International Trade Center to celebrate Zhao's new book - and her life.

Hosted by the Anhui Association of Texas (AAT), the event netted $1,660 for AAT funding of school libraries and student support in rural Anhui province in East China.

Zhao shared some of the highlights of her life and book with the audience. Upon graduating from elementary school, she was accepted by the best middle school in Wuhu city, Anhui province - the first student from her village ever to attain such a distinction. Yet, her family was so poor that they could not afford the $2.08 fee needed to enter the school.

She dropped out and worked in a quarry for five years, a harsh job even for an adult. "The hammer was almost as tall as I was," she recalled.

Looking for a better life, Zhao went to Shanghai in 1989 and worked at a sewing factory, eventually getting promoted to team leader.

Since she left school, however, she had never stopped learning. "I kept reading books, keeping a dairy and sending out articles to magazines and newspapers," she said. Some got published, and she got encouraged.

When she saw in an ad in 1998 that the popular magazine Zhi Yin - a woman's magazine about personal relationships - was recruiting an editor in Wuhan, Hubei province, a city far away from Shanghai, she resolutely quit her job - despite the risks and uncertainties - and went to Wuhan and applied for this dream job. And, with merely elementary school credentials to show, she got the job.

While working as an editor, Zhao started to write her life story and in 2000 started to put it online. The response from readers was tremendous, and she collected her online writings and first published her life story in a 200-plus-page book entitled My Suffering, My University. It became a sensation and she was featured in news stories and on TV.

Zhen Zaiyuan, a petroleum engineer from Houston, learned of her story through his older brother in China in 2005. Zhen, who had a similarly harsh childhood - losing a father and having to help his family survive at very young age - was so touched by her resilience that he fell in love with her before he met her. He got in touch with Zhao, made her fall in love with him back, married her in 2007 and in 2009, Zhao moved to Houston.

Zhao continues to work as Zhi Yin's overseas editor in Houston and in her spare time she revised and added more events from her life to her book, doubling the original length and renaming it Whose Struggle Did Not Incur Injury, which was published by China Writers Publishing House last year. It has won three awards in China so far.

Many readers and local writers shared their thoughts with the audience. Consul Song Deqin China's Consulate General in Houston said he finished reading Zhao's book in one day because of its gripping content.

"This is a very inspirational real life story," Song said. "Zhao is very honest, she wrote frankly about her failed first marriage and divorce, her hardship, her struggles, her growing pains. And I am very touched by her strong will to survive and pursue her dreams."

 From school dropout to universal appeal

Zhao Meiping (left), author of Whose Struggle Did Not Incur Injury, gives copies of her book to Consul Song Deqin of China's Consulate General in Houston on March 22. May Zhou / China Daily

(China Daily USA 03/25/2014 page2)