Serving up a treat –
An illustration from the picture book
Li Na: Being a Better Me.
A book about tennis legend Li Na could be titled Love Story, or maybe All Set and Done. Possibly even Life’s a Racket or Holding Court. The book’s title may pose a challenge but it is nothing compared to the text inside. It is not easy to condense the incredible life story of Li into a picture book. With two Grand Slam titles, Li is also the first player from an Asian country to win these titles and the first Chinese player to be seeded in a Grand Slam event.
At her height, she achieved a singles ranking of No 2. Li is the most successful Chinese tennis player of our age, and inspired many younger people to take up the sport. She was among the most popular tennis players on the circuit at that time, and was loved by Chinese tennis fans. She had an elegance and sense of humor that won over fans.
Li knows what sacrifices are involved in becoming a champion; the pain, the sweat, the hard work, the sore knees, the swollen ankles, the aching arms and the blisters.
Writer A Jia at the home of Chinese tennis player Li Na in Beijing in 2019, discussing the picture book
Li Na: Being a Better Me.[Photo provided to China Daily]
So when writer-critic-translator A Jia (penname of Lin Xiaoxi) was offered the chance to write about her, he answered: “Would you please wait for me for two months? I need to do some research before making any decisions.”
The pitch came from the same book editor who contributed to the success of Li’s autobiography in the foreign book markets. Li Na: My Life, the English-language copy of her autobiography published by Penguin Books in 2013, was a star among China-centric books introduced to a global audience.
Amazon readers have described the book as “emotional”, and one says: “Li succeeds in conveying the most salient and often humbling accounts of her journey to the top.”
“But remember that book has more than 200,000 words in its original Chinese version,” says Miao Hui, editor with Xiron Kids, who established connections with Li when publishing her 274-page autobiography back when she was an editor with Penguin.