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Dickensian Tale Propels Maid to Literary Stardom, Spotlights Those Living on China’s Margins

By Huang Ziyi and Li Rongde
Fan Yusu, a maid in Beijing, wrote the article
Fan Yusu, a maid in Beijing, wrote the article "I'm Fan Yusu," which went viral in China. Photo: Caixin

(Beijing) — The Picun community in the northern outskirts of Beijing is no different from other slums in big cities that are home to rural migrants. Its dirt roads littered with rubbish lead to shabby farmhouses, where nearly 10,000 residents live cheek by jowl in makeshift rooms.

But a literature club in the village that brings together construction workers, kitchen helpers and maids to listen to poetry, discuss fiction and hone their writing skills has suddenly pushed this squalid corner into the national spotlight. It all happened after an essay by one of its regular participants, Fan Yusu, went viral on Chinese social media in late April.

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