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With “Educated”, American-style emancipation is making a splash in China

TOEven before the book was released in the United States, Diwu Tingting, head of the Chinese publishing house Thinkingdom, was convinced: Educated would make a splash in his country. In fact, on sale from October 24, 2019 in the Middle Kingdom, the testimony of Tara Westover, raised in a Mormon family, from which she manages to free herself thanks to her education, exceeded one million copies as of March 2020.

A success far from fleeting. A year later, in mid-June 2021, the book sold 2.7 million copies. “While the author of the book was completely unknown, Educated immediately received very good word of mouth. Influencers and celebrities have said the greatest good about it without our having to ask them ”, note Mme Diwu, incidentally revealing a discreet practice of the publishing world in China.

Why on earth does this a priori typically American story appeal to the Chinese public? Mme Diwu notes that it is mainly young people aged 18 to 28 who buy the book and that the peak in sales was in spring 2020. Two interesting indications: in this country where city dwellers spend a lot of time in transport , the confinement linked to the Covid seems to have allowed them to reconnect with the joys of reading.

Success of feminist works

Why this book? Bram Barclay, a young anthropologist and sinologist, undoubtedly provided an element of answer on ThinkChina, a site based in Singapore. From November 2019, even beforeEducated not to seduce the Chinese, Bram Barclay opposed this book to the American school system, ultra-competitive and the only way to access a social lift that is increasingly difficult to reach. “Mme Westover pleads for an education which is the expression of the individual personality ”, he analyzed. Exactly the opposite of China, where education is on the contrary the mold in which we fit ourselves to be at the service of the country.

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If the success ofEducated is partly explained by the unease of young Chinese parents with the education system, the fact that the author is a woman is probably not to be neglected. Even though Thinkingdom editions did not use this argument, Educated appeals to a readership that is not only young but predominantly female, who lately has favored feminist works.

Fang Si-Qi First Love Paradise, by Taiwanese Lin Yihan, also reached one million copies in 2020. The story is tragic, since, shortly after the publication, in 2017, of this book which tells of the rape of a teenage girl by one of her teachers, Lin Yihan committed suicide, suggesting that what she presented as a novel was in fact autobiographical.

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