Lady of Ch'iao Kuo: Warrior of the South, China AD531 (The Royal Diaries) Scholastic $101 Lawrence Yep An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-ling Scholastic Canada 2004 Gillian Chan The Diary of Ma Yan: The life of a Chinese schoolgirl - transformed Virago 2004 HK$112 Ma Yan Fictional diaries are a popular way to tell stories these days. Witness the success of the likes of Adrian Mole, Bridget Jones and The Princess Diaries. They can be used not only to entertain, but to educate. Talented authors are now inventing fictional diaries of actual historical figures as a way of giving readers a history lesson. Lady of Ch'iao Kuo is one of a number of diaries that bring to light, in dramatically different ways of the Chinese experience through the ages. Lawrence Yep, a third-generation Chinese-American, has recreated the life of Princess Red Bird of the Hsien people in sixth-century China. The diary covers four critical months of her life, when her father is killed by the neighbouring enemy, the Dog Heads. Red Bird, only 16 years old, discovers she has a talent for diplomacy, and skilfully leads her people to success. Yep says the most difficult thing about writing the story was the amount of research required to authentically portray China at the time, and the life of a royal girl. In doing so, he developed a character who is feisty and brave. Such a character may not be unusual nowadays, but it wasn't the norm then, when women were expected to be silent. An Ocean Apart is the fictional diary of Chin Mei-ling, a young girl newly immigrated to Canada and living with her father in Vancouver's Chinatown district in 1922. Mei-ling is a hard worker - in large part as a response to her difficult and confusing life. She and her father both work to earn enough money to bring her mother and little brother to Canada. Not only must they try to earn the cost of passage, but they're worried about an impending 'head tax' on Chinese immigrants that is meant to discourage immigration and threatens to split the family. In her diary, Mei-Ling reveals her feelings about racism and bullying at school, while trying to fit into a place that's between two cultures. She must also deal with her father's fears and anxieties. In the end, Mei-ling writes of her hopes for the future, and for the arrival of her mother and brother - but the conclusion isn't clear. Do her mother and brother come to Canada? Are the family reunited? Read it and see. The Diary of Ma Yan is the true diary of a 13-year-old girl living in a remote village called Zhang Jia Shu in Ningxia Province. In her original diary, written as a school assignment, Ma Yan told of how distraught she was because her parents didn't have enough money to keep her in school. In May 2001, a group of visitors who came to the school were given the diary to read. One of them was a French journalist, Pierre Haski. He gave the Ma family a small gift of money, and thought that would be the end of it. But after he wrote about their plight in January 2002, people began to send money. Yan's diary was translated (first, into French) and published, taking the Paris Book Fair by storm. It was then translated into other languages. Ma and her family now have enough money for her schooling and many other necessities. The book has also helped her classmates, with 25 per cent of royalties going to the Association for the Children of Ningxia.