Today, we get to celebrate a book birthday with this post! Congratulations to author Songju Ma Daemicke and illustrator Lin on the release of TU YOUYOU’S DISCOVERY. Thank you for sharing the cultural heart of the story, Songju, and also, thank you for offering a GIVEAWAY!
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of TU YOUYOU’S DISCOVERY: FINDING A CURE FOR MALARIA.
Congratulations to Julie Rowan Zoch, winner of A TRUE WONDER: THE COMIC BOOK HERO WHO CHANGED EVERYTHING from Kirsten Larson!
Embracing and Learning from Your Cultural Heritage by Songju Ma Daemicke
I grew up in China. Every Chinese mom is basically a Chinese medicine practitioner at heart. I remember vividly that my mom used smashed dandelions on my cheeks when I had the mumps. The cold mush soothed my inflamed neck and chin and the dandelion’s natural anti-inflammation properties helped me fight the virus and recover.
I remain a strong believer in Chinese traditional medicine. Here is a picture of a night lily I grew on the night it was blooming. (This mysterious flower only blooms in the nighttime and the bloom only lasts for a few hours.) By the second day, the flowers will go into my soup. It has detoxifying properties, strengthens one’s lungs and helps one’s immune system. The flower is also both beautiful and yummy!
When Tu Youyou received the Nobel Prize in 2015 for the discovery of Artemisinin, which has saved millions of lives, and making her the first Chinese woman to have ever been awarded this honor, I knew that I had to tell this story. I wanted to tell not only Tu Youyou’s personal story, but also about Chinese culture and precisely, Chinese traditional medicine. Tu Youyou cherished traditional Chinese medical wisdom and embraced it’s possible use in the modern age. At the heart of my book, Tu Youyou’s Discovery: Finding a Cure for Malaria, is the idea of embracing and learning from one’s cultural heritage.
I started my story with Tu Youyou getting very sick with TB at a young age. While antibiotics saved her life, her mother’s herb soups helped slowly nurse her back to full strength. Youyou witnesses the power of both modern and traditional medicine. Inspired, she sets her heart and life goals in science, deciding to study medicine to help save lives.
As the story progresses, Tu Youyou is assigned to head a big government project, to find a cure for malaria. The first thing she does is to study many traditional Chinese medicine books, then travels to visit Chinese medicine practitioners and malaria patients. She hears popular folk sayings recommending a qinghao/sweet wormwood remedy.
Embracing her heritage and learning from her ancestors leads Tu Youyou to her “a-ha moment.” When her experiments fail and fail again, she turns to an ancient Chinese remedy book – A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies for inspiration. This book was written by Ge Hong, a pharmacist 1700 years before. Youyou reread the 15 Chinese characters describing the ‘Qinghao remedy.’
青蒿一握, 以水二升渍, 绞取汁, 尽服之。
“A handful of Qinghao immersed in two liters of water, wring out the juice and drink it all.”
She ruminates over each word in her mind and realizes that the temperature used in preparation could be the key!
The book ends with Youyou being awarded the Nobel Prize in Science. Basking in the glory of this tremendous honor, Youyou graciously credits Chinese medicine for her amazing achievement. “Artemisinin (is) a gift from traditional Chinese medicine to the world.”
This is both the heart of her work and also this book. Learn from your cultural heritage.
My hope is that no matter what background you may come from and whatever you might do with and in your life, value, embrace and learn your heritage and culture. This will fill your life with deeper meaning and heart, and give you an extra set of wings to fly further.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of TU YOUYOU’S DISCOVERY: FINDING A CURE FOR MALARIA. (US addresses only, please)