|Jiang Shumei writes her book. [China Women's News]|
An 81-year-old grandma from the city of Anda City in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province has successfully published a set of prize-winning books despite only learning to read in her 60s.
Jiang Shumei was born in 1937 in Juye County, east China's Shandong Province. She later settled in Anda, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, and rather than being formally recruited, she has worked there as a family worker for more than 20 years.
"When I was in my 60s, I met a good teacher who was 30 years younger than me," Jiang said. The teacher was no one but her own daughter, Zhang Ailing.
Jiang's daughter, who has the same name as the influential modern Chinese writer Eileen Chang, is also a writer and teacher at Suihua University in Heilongjiang Province.
In 1996, Zhang joined a writing class at Lu Xun Academy of Arts. Her parents took a bus back to their hometown in Shandong. Unfortunately, her father was killed in a car accident on the way.
After her father's death, her mother, Jiang was unable to recover from grief and despair.
Therefore, to help Jiang, Zhang decided to teach her mother to read. She hoped that by reading, she could fill her mother's free time and find a conduit for her grief.
In order to make it less boring, Zhang first asked her mother to read Chinese characters on the opera channel. Later, Jiang created her own clipboard with tongue twisters to remember words. Advertising, instruction manuals and other sources became her reading materials.
A few months later, Jiang was able to read children's stories books on her own. Being able to recognize more characters, she then proceeded to read some famous books under the guidance of her daughter.
Zhang asked her mother to live with her in Suihua in 2010. When they were at home, Jiang always told her daughter stories, and told Zhang to write them down.
Rather than authoring those stories herself, Zhang encouraged her mother to record these stories on her own.
In the summer of 2012, Jiang was persuaded by her daughter to learn to write. In fact, it was not the first time Jiang had learned to write.
"When I was in my 60s, I wrote for a while. But it was too hard for me," Jiang said.
But since the idea of writing came to her mind, she has applied herself to the idea earnestly under the guidance of her daughter.
Every time Jiang writes a story, Zhang would post it on her blog which has received lots of praise from netizens.
Zhang's friends in the writing circle recommended her mother's articles to Duku, a comprehensive journal of humanities and social sciences, as a result, Jiang earned 3,000 yuan for her first attempt.
"Since then my mother has become more and more fascinated by writing," said Zhang.
She could write all day except for four hours' sleep. Jiang took less than a year to finish her first book, Chaotic and Poor Times.
In the form of oral history, Chaotic and Poor Times recounts the people and events of that particular historical period.
Cabbage Flowers and Sugarcane Sprouts is her second book which mainly describes the people, things, customs and objects of Baishitun, where Jiang was born.
Her third book, Woman with Long Neck, is a collection of folk tales, while her forth book My Husband shares the stories of some families in Shandong and northeastern China.
All her books won Jiang many awards, for example, Woman with Long Neck won the Chinese Good Book Award in 2015.
Nowadays, in addition to writing, her hobbies also include singing, playing the piano and painting.
According to her daughter, Jiang also wants to spend some time on art so that she may become a painter in the future.
Since becoming a writer, Jiang has become more confident and cheerful.
"My mother has been a family woman and a temporary worker for a lifetime, living a good and humble life, but now she feels that she has value and has a sense of existence," said Zhang.
"Young people shouldn't be afraid to start late. Don't be lazy. No pains, no gains," said Jiang.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)