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The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl Hardcover – May 31, 2005


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Tra edition (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060764961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060764968
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,650,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8–In 2001, while a French journalist was visiting remote Ningxia province in northwest China, a Muslim woman wearing the white headscarf of the Hui people thrust the diaries of her daughter into his hands. The three small notebooks described the girl's struggle to get an education despite extreme poverty. Each week Ma Yan and her younger brothers walked seven miles to school where they stayed until Friday night when they returned home. Often their only food was a small bowl of rice at midday. Only occasionally did they have a bit of money to buy some vegetables in the market or to catch a tractor ride home for the weekend. Ma Yan studied hard, but she did not feel successful unless she was number one in her class. When she didn't rank first, she was berated by her mother and made to feel guilty for her lack of effort. Her parents worked constantly to make a better life for their children, farming their own fields, harvesting crops for others, and collecting the plant fa cai from the steppes north of their home. The girl's feelings for her mother were powerful and complex, and she alternated between overwhelming love and rage at the injustices she suffered. While this book will not hold the interest of average readers because of its overly didactic tone, it does paint a vivid portrait of the daily life of a child in a part of the world seldom visited.–Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-9. "I want to go to school, Mother. . . . How wonderful it would be if I could go to school forever!" Thirteen-year-old Ma Yan, a peasant in the drought-scarred province of Ningxia, China, evidently scrawled this message in frustration at having to work in the fields. According to a preface, Ma Yan's mother passed her daughter's plea to visiting French journalist Haski, along with journals documenting about nine months of Ma Yan's life. Haski published them in France and established a charity to assist similarly impoverished Ningxia students, to which Ma Yan has since promised 25 percent of her royalties. Some adults may be troubled by the diary's odd provenance and the purposeful annotations framing Ma Yan's rather meandering reflections. Nonetheless, the affecting story, extended with photos of Ma Yan and her family, will push readers to a new understanding of the hardscrabble existence endured by many, even as her brooding reflections ("My moods go up and down") underscore how much teens everywhere have in common. Some captions and photos not seen. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Very interesting book.
RM
Ma Yan's story is of her struggle to survive and break out of this terrible poverty.
Vikk Simmons
I bought the book and read it from beginning to end without stopping.
Georgia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By blbooks on August 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The DIARY OF MA YAN is an incredible story of how one girl's determination, diligence, and hope impacted not only her life...but the lives of those around her.

Ma Yan is a young girl determined to continue her education despite the hardships and struggles that ensue. Knowing that an education is the only thing that could rescue her from a life of poverty, Ma Yan continues her fight to stay in school. Her resilience is inspiring.

The book contains Ma Yan's diary entries from September - December 2000 and July - December 2001. The entries are brief and from the heart. She writes of poverty, hunger, frustration, desire for an education, and hope for a better future for herself and her family.

When Ma Yan's mother gave her daughter's diaries to a foreign journalist--it paved the way for an incredible outpouring of love and financial support--not only for Ma Yan but for other poverty-stricken children in China as well with the establishment of the Association for the Children of Ningxia which has helped over thirty children.

It is a wonderfully honest book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Lieberman on September 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I came to find out about this book by listening to an NPR interview of the French journalist who originally was given the diaries by Ma Yan's Mother. His interview was so moving that I ordered the book from Amazon. Ma Yan was writing about her life in a village where no foreigners had been in more then 60 years. I have since given this book as a gift to several girls and boys of Ma Yan's age (12-13-14) so that they can read first hand what it's like for kids their age in a remote part of our World.

This book is a lesson for all ages. Well worth reading.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pamela A on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am only sorry that more of her diary did not survive. Ma Yan proves herself an articulate young woman. And this book will make you appreciate Americans' access to education and opportunity.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Vikk Simmons on October 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
We meet Ma Yan when she's thirteen and in the last year of her primary school. She lives in the dormitory during the week and makes the twelve and a half mile walk home every weekend. Her life revolves around school and the absolute necessity for her to do well, while her very existence is consumed with thoughts of food and constant hunger. Ma Yan's story is of her struggle to survive and break out of this terrible poverty.

"How wonderful it would be if I could stay in school forever," says Ma Yan, but in 2001 she knows that will never happen. Life in rural China is hard. In the village of Zhangjiashu, thousands of miles northwest of Beijing, the way out is by getting an education. If a family is able to provide the funds for school, the boys are the lucky recipients.

Ma Yan's mother understands her daughter's passionate plea to remain in school. Determined that her daughter have a better life, Ma Yan's thirty-three year old mother sacrifices even more and travels two hundred and fifty miles away to earn the money needed for her daughter to return to school. In many ways, this is as much the story of the mother as it is the daughter.

In short daily entries, Ma Yan tells of life in and out of school. Her desperate need to succeed, her emotional upheavals, the intense rivalry between students, the enormous sacrifices made by her parents, and the "cruel life" lived by her octogenarian grandparents pull the reader deeper and deeper into Ma Yan's world and reveal an ordinary girl living a life few of us can imagine.

Although this is essentially a young adult book, the story has the power to capture the imagination of adults. In my humble opinion, Ma Yan's Diary should be mandatory reading for all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Linda NC on June 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, though it is painful to read about the poverty and hunger Ma Yan and her family experienced. As mom to a daughter from China, I can't help but wonder if my daughter's life would have been similar, had she not been adopted.

This book was also very hopeful, as Ma Yan's diary brings her some fame and brings world attention and help to her family and schoolmates.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I thought that this book was pretty good, and it makes me compare my life to hers. How she struggles and wants to learn and how I don't have as much of a passion for learning. I know that a girl of 12 or 13 wrote the diary, but the sentences were not very well written and were not complete sentences. The entries were very simple like," A teacher arrives. He's wearing a blue jacket and black trousers and he has black leather shoes. He explains what he expects of us. I think he's our Chinese teacher." The days weren't that informative and the ending wasn't the best, but the idea was pretty clear; one of many girls that struggle on a daily bases to maintain an education and the hard work their parents and they go through to get money to eat. In the diary, it shows how Ma Yan had to starve herself to get money for a pen and how she usually got so little to eat and we can ask for a many pens and get it and stuff ourselves with food till we're full or more.

It was pretty interesting to read the diary of a girl who goes through many hardships and how writing this diary could help her and many others live a better life than before. The diary probably would make whoever reads this more grateful for the life they have now, if it's better than hers. This would be a book I would recommend, especially to those who spend money wastefully and to those who have no intention to study but have an opportunity to do so. It's a book worth reading and I hope you enjoy it.
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