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Gold Boy, Emerald Girlby Yiyun Li
Synopses & Reviews
In these spellbinding stories, Yiyun Li, Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner and acclaimed author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants, gives us exquisite fiction filled with suspense, depth, and beauty, in which history, politics, and folklore magnificently illuminate the human condition.
In the title story, a professor introduces her middle-aged son to a favorite student, unaware of the student's true affections. In "A Man Like Him," a lifelong bachelor finds kinship with a man wrongly accused of an indiscretion. In "The Proprietress," a reporter from Shanghai travels to a small town to write an article about the local prison, only to discover a far more intriguing story involving a shopkeeper who offers refuge to the wives and children of inmates. In "House Fire," a young man who suspects his father of sleeping with the young man's wife seeks the help of a detective agency run by a group of feisty old women.
Written in lyrical prose and with stunning honesty, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl reveals worlds strange and familiar, and cultures both traditional and modern, to create a mesmerizing and vibrant landscape of life.
"The nine brilliant stories in Li's collection (after The Vagrants) offer a frighteningly lucid vision of human fate. In the title story, motherless Siyu has long been in love with an older zoology professor, Dai, who suddenly wants Siyu, 38 and single, to marry Dai's gay 42-year-old son, Hanfeng. In 'A Man Like Him,' retired art teacher Fei embarks on a strange quest after reading a story about a Web site devoted to shaming a man who left his wife. Fei seeks out the man, needing to confide to him his own sordid brush with infamy. The collection's magnificent centerpiece is 'Kindness,' the novella-length reminiscence of a spiritually despondent math teacher named Moyan, whose bleak story begins with the emotional starvation she suffered from her adoptive parents and grimly continues over the years as two older women — an English teacher and Moyan's army superior ‐ attempt, unsuccessfully, to reach out to her. Li's description of army life, and particularly her description of Moyan's regiment's march across Mount Dabi, is a bravura piece of writing, but it's Moyan's evolution from pitiable to borderline heroic (in her own way) that is Li's greatest achievement." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this collection of spellbinding stories, the acclaimed author of "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" delivers exquisite fiction filled with suspense, depth, and beauty.
“A literary voice that brings to mind Nabokov’s description of Chekhov’s narrative style: ‘The story is told in the most natural way possible…the way one person relates to another the most important things in his life, slowly and yet without a break, in a slightly subdued voice.’ As in reading Chekhov, one is struck by how profoundly important the lives or ordinary people are made to seem, and by what a sizable chunk of existence – an entire life or several lives – has been compressed into a few pages….[Yiyun Li] succeeds in making the details of a very particular (and very sharply drawn) time and place express something broader and more universal….[Li’s stories] have the power to create hushed intervals that resonate with emotion….Gold Boy, Emerald Girl is an example of the treasure an artist can fashion from the raw materials of ordinary existence.”
--Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice
“Li's collection well deserves a celebration with its sophistication and honesty, which often derive from a deep understanding of the history, culture and politics of China, and of their impact on ordinary people. . . . Yes, sorrows may arise during times of reflection, but it's impossible not to fall in love with the privacy and tranquility of the time and place.”
—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, Cover Review
“Yiyun Li is a marvel. . . . Li's insights into Chinese culture make her stories fascinating reading. But the greatest pleasure comes from the admirable elegance of her work. Her writing is lyrical, circular and finely etched, with an emotional impact that both satisfies and surprises.”
—NPR.org, “Books We Like”
“With their quiet authority, exquisite control, and illumination of those quicksilver moments on which entire lives pivot, Li’s tales lodge in your rib cage long after you’ve finished reading….[Li will] remind you of what it’s like to be human in today’s increasingly fragmented world.”
“Breathtaking….starkly wondrous….gorgeous fiction….Yiyun Li writes in simple, penetrating prose….[Li] is an impresario of our essential loneliness. Still, these nine stories are not sad, but astringently beautiful.”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Li is extraordinary . . . a storyteller of the first order . . . each tale in this collection is as wild and beautiful and thorny as a heart. . . Li inhabits the lives of her characters with such force and compassion that one cannot help but marvel at her remarkable talents.”
“Masterly….nuanced….Li conjures a bewildering new economy China, but her eloquent understanding of people struggling to help one another ‘make a world that would accommodate their loneliness’ feels universal.”
“Delectable….subtle and assured….[Li] finds the pulse points in the lives of her Chinese and Chinese-American characters and renders her findings with empathy and exactitude.”
“Li displays a staggering poise and grace in her latest collection of short stories….the yarns spun in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl prove to be as varied as humanity itself.”
--Time Out New York
“[Li’s] writing is minimal, yet packed with detail. At times, it feels like she is reporting in the manner of a journalist; at others she teeters on the verge of lyricism, often walking this line within a single paragraph.”
—New York Observer
“A stellar assortment of stories…further proof that Li deserves to be considered among the best living fiction writers.”
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Brilliant…a frighteningly lucid vision of human fate.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Yiyun Li is a winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. She grew up in Beijing and attended Peking University. She came to the United States in 1996 to study medicine and started writing two years later. After receiving a master’s degree in immunology from the University of Iowa, she attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received an MFA. The author of The Vagrants and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Li was selected for a Whiting Writers’ Award and was named by Granta as one of best young American novelists under thirty-five. Li teaches at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and their two sons.
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