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Stories of the Sahara



The book that has captivated millions of Chinese readers, translated into English for the very first time.


Author: Sanmao

Genre: Memoir

Reader Appeal: Teen and adults


First the facts. Stories of the Sahara was published in China in 1976. Sanmao was born Chen Maoping in China in 1943, she died in 1991. Her life in-between was a blueprint for how legends are born. She was what Instagram influencers wish they could be.


I’m not much of a traveler, sometimes even the thought of going to the grocery store gives me anxiety. Moving to another part of the world would be out of the question for me, but Sanmao is unlike anyone I’ve ever heard of.  She was adventurous and a home-body, brave and insecure, funny and serious. With every story in the collection she experienced every range of emotion, sometimes on the same page.


Each chapter is an adventure. “The desert bathing spectacle” is comedy gold. “Night in the wasteland” reads like a suspense novel. “Hearth and home” is perhaps the truest picture we have of Sanmao. She writes: “I wanted a taste of many different lives, sophisticated or simple, highbrow or low. Only then would this journey be worthwhile. (Although perhaps a life plain as porridge would never be an option for me.)”


On my wall I have pictures of brave women, some are real and some are not. Sanmao will make it to my wall. I am not alone. A quick internet search will reveal that many Chinese girls adopt the name Echo (a name Sanmao chose for herself) One young blogger tells the story of her teacher that introduced her to the writings of Sanmao. The teacher advised caution; “Sanmao’s books can ‘misdirect a young girl’.” Now translated into English, Sanmao’s adventures can be enjoyed by a whole new group of girls, and maybe even misdirect a few us to new adventures.


Let's Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this book:


• Where would you go if you could go anyplace in the world? Why?


• Who are some brave people you’ve known? Why would you call them brave?


• Sanmao had many names in her life. Would you change your name? What would it be?




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