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On the Job Xin (Cynthia) Feng does live reporting at Dance Marathon

Re-Shaping Tragedy

A J-MC School graduate addresses the human experience through authorship

It wasn't the badly mangled vehicles or scorched strip of highway that gripped the young journalist with fear. It was the corpse dangling from the truck carriage.

A newly recruited reporter at her first accident scene, Cynthia Feng (MAP candidate, Kunming, China) was taken aback by the tragedy she witnessed. "I felt that something was fighting in my head," she said. "I was totally scared."

The haunting image has yet to leave Feng. Three years and two continents away, she revisits it in her newly published book Spring City, Black Country and Cornfield. A collection of narratives written from her experiences in China, Great Britain and the United States, it addresses Feng's reflections on culture, her growth as a woman and her entrance into the world of reporting.

Six years in the making, Feng's book is a compilation of essays begun at age 16 - only shortly before the aspiring journalist would leave her homeland to receive an education abroad.

"I left [China] at an early age," Feng said. "I almost don't know what culture shock really means, because my life is constantly moving and changing."

After finishing high school in the industrial English town of Dudley she dubs "Black Country," Feng remained abroad to study at the University of Leicester. She subsequently moved to Iowa, where she is currently completing her masters in journalism. It was here that the final chapter of her book took shape.

Wind Swept The China native admires the Inner Mongolian grassland

"After I came to Iowa and stepped into real world of journalism, I found other people far more interesting than myself," she said, explaining her book's concluding narrative profile section.

"As I went out on interviews, I learned that no matter how ordinary people are, some aspects of their life are just extraordinary. They contain things that you never would have imagined."

And perhaps, the same is true of Feng herself.

"She is a rare breed," said UI journalism Professor Lyombe Eko. "She puts her heart and soul into every task she has before her."

But, despite any personal success, Feng doesn't wish to be mistaken for an author. "I see myself as a journalist," she said modestly. "I would never consider myself a writer. I don't write that well."

Her book begs to differ. Spring City, Black Country, and Cornfield, has been well received in China, and is becoming especially popular among its middle aged set, according to Feng.

Perhaps its draw is the powerful self-discovery her writing has produced. After that initial traumatic experience at the automobile accident, "I realized my dream, the kind of journalist I want to become," she said. "I want to speak for the poor, the marginalized. I want to create change."

Feng paused. "I don't know whether this dream will live or die, but I want to carry it out."

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