Du Lala is a brash, 30-something Chinese woman who successfully breaks the glass ceiling in the macho corporate world.
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.
She uses a pseudonym, Li Ke, to maintain a bit of privacy amid the excitement over her books.
“A bit of calm is better than celebrity any day. Many people who have done extraordinary things are in fact looking for peace, not celebrity, the author told AFP in an email.
“A novel is easier to read than a manual, Li Ke said, 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 corporation in the Fortune 500.
The first book describes in simple fashion Du Lala’s climb through the ranks at DB, from sales assistant to director of human resources – a meteoric rise peppered with accounts of jealousy and other quirks of office politics.
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 28-year-old fan Yan Nan.
“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, said Yan.
“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.
Li Ke’s first book has already been adapted for the theater, and a television series is in the works for this year.
The author was in ninth place on China’s list of best-paid writers in 2009, having earned 3.5 million yuan ($513,000).
More than one million official copies of the two books have been sold, according to industry data – but that does not include the likely high number of pirated copies in the hands of eager readers.