How a Chinese Farmer’s YouTube Videos Help My Mom Through Cancer
Chemo left her exhausted and depressed, but Mom found comfort in an obscure vlogger who reminds her of home.
Illustration by David Huang
It’s early morning in Alameda, California, and I’m in the kitchen with my mother. She’s wearing the white, quilted robe she’s had since I was a child, and she’s sitting at her relegated seat at the head of the table. Peering over her red-rimmed eyeglasses, she taps away at something on her phone. Then I hear the sound of the opening music from her favorite YouTuber’s channel.
The vlogger is a woman who lives on a farm in Henan, China. Her handle and nickname is Ni Tu De Qing Xiang, which directly translates to “the soft, clean scent of soil.” Qing Xiang’s channel features videos of her cooking elaborately prepared meals using ingredients she grows on her land. Her son, whose name is Er Zhou (“second pig”), appears often in the videos, as does her father-in-law, her daughters, sisters, cousins, and mother-in-law, who doesn’t say much — she just pops homemade dumplings filled with fried rice; tomato, egg and spinach soup; and watermelon slices positively bursti…