A 2009 Washington Post op-ed and a subsequent meeting over coffee with the column’s author inspired the heroine in Fred Hiatt’s book, Nine Days. The novel is based on the true story of Ti-Anna Wang and her mission to help her father, a dissident serving a life sentence in China.
Wang has spent the past 11 years trying to win the freedom of her father, Dr. Wang Bingzhang. Her op-ed submission stood out to Hiatt, who is also the editorial page editor of the Washington Post.
“It was beautifully written, and it was a painful story of a girl whose father goes missing when she’s 13 years old,” Hiatt said Wednesday on Morning Joe.
“There was just something very inspiring about her dedication and her courage. She came to Washington not knowing anybody, spent a year there trying to bring attention to her father’s case.”
After publishing Wang’s op-ed, Hiatt met with her for coffee.
“It struck me what a burden in some ways and a responsibility that is for a young person,” he said on the show.
In the fictional novel, Ti-Anna Chen spends nine days in search of her father, who went missing after landing in Hong Kong. Wang didn’t realize the focus of Hiatt’s book until it was completed.
Born in 1989, Wang has dedicated her life working toward human rights, democracy, and freedom of speech–all connotations that her name implies. She was named to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing led by students who voiced grievances against inflation, limited career prospects, and corruption of the party elite.
“I don’t think I can describe it as pressure. I feel it is more of a responsibility to help my father as much as I can,” Wang said Wednesday on Morning Joe. “The name itself is not a burden; it’s an honor to be named after the people who died that day.”
Wang traveled to Washington, D.C., to mobilize support for the release of her father.
“If I couldn’t secure his release, I wanted to make sure that his sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain,” she said on the show. “And that his efforts wouldn’t be forgotten, and the idea that my father gave his life for would be remembered.”
Watch msnbc’s web-exclusive greenroom interview with Wang to learn how social media has played a role in the campaign for her father’s freedom.
Are you making things happen like Ti-Anna Wang? Join the conversation for each week’s Afternoon Mo Joe greenroom interview. Tweet us your brilliant ideas about innovation to #MoJoe, Morning Joe’s web-only series of videos.