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She is also the title character in a novel that has been a breakout literary hit in China and an unofficial handbook for ambitious career women in the Asian nation, now the world’s third-largest economy.
“The Story of Du Lala’s Promotion” was such a success that the author — herself once a young professional like her protagonist — quickly churned out “Du Lala 2: Splendid Days,” which was equally well-received.
The author uses a pseudonym, Li Ke, to maintain a bit of privacy amid the excitement over her books.
“A novel is easier to read than a manual,” said Li Ke, describing her heroine as “a normal person,” “more beautiful than the norm but not more than that.”
Fresh out of university, Du Lala’s first foray into the Chinese working world is a bitter one — she is sexually harassed by her boss. She then gets a job at DB, a fictitious multinational Fortune 500 corporation.
Some young women say they are using the novel as a handbook to improve their own careers.
“It gave me guidance and ideas. I learned a lot from this book — about how to communicate, how to survive in an office, how to ask for a pay rise and also how office love affairs are taboo,” said Yan Nan, a 28-year-old fan.
“I don’t feel alone any more. There are thousands of Du Lalas who try to make it on their own and live better lives, like me,” said Yan, who works for a foreign company in Beijing. “It’s a very practical book for active young women.”
The book’s success is easy to explain — readers can readily identify with the heroine, who is fighting for her economic and personal independence.
“In contrast to many young Chinese women who look for a rich man to marry, Du Lala works hard and counts on her own abilities to secure her future — that’s why I like her,” said another reader, 28-year-old Rui Menggui.
Yan says she likes Du Lala because “she represents a group of white-collar workers who are fighting in the jungle of the working world. In some way, I am like Du Lala, even if I don’t work for a big multinational,” Yan said.
“I admire her because she is intelligent and hard-working. What she gets, she earns — she is not taking advantage of her guanxi [connections], as is often the case in China.”
Rui says Du Lala conveys “the image of a young modern woman who is very real, strong and resourceful.”