Within five years of coming to America as an immunology student, Yiyun Li won the Paris Review’s Plimpton prize, the first of many awards. Her first short story collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the inaugural Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.  She teaches in the University of California at Davis’s Creative Writing Program and lives with her family in Oakland, California.

Short Story Collections

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (Random House, 2010)

reviewed by Marko Fong

Book Title (2004)

Interview with Yiyun Li

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Yiyun Li: Many of the stories in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl were written while I was working on my novel, The Vagrants. I love to write stories and a novel at the same time, so when The Vagrants was finished, I had eight stories ready for a collection, and wrote two more, including a long story Kindness. So I would say the stories in the collection were written in four or five years.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

YL: No, I did not have a collection in mind, though I knew I would keep writing stories and somehow something would emerge.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

YL: Arranging stories in a collection is like arranging the guests at a dinner party (though I never give dinner parties)--you would want the stories next to each other to have something to talk about, though you would also want some sort of tension between them so the conversation is not dull.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

YL: A story starts with a situation (or a few situations), whether it is a happy one, or a pleasant, or a sad, a distressful, a tragic one, and the story is to explore the people around that situation so in the end the situation may turn out as it appears, but oftentimes it turns out to be the opposite.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

YL: No. I don't have a reader in my mind, though I do have stories in my mind to which I hope my stories will talk with.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

YL:  Oh, I don't know. I would ask them if they have questions for me.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

YL: The less one thinks about that the better! Writing is a very private thing, and publishing is the opposite. Some writers are attracted to the latter, I am not at all.

TSR: What are you working on now?

YL: A novel, and a few stories.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

YL: The Rain Came Last & Other Stories by Niccolo Tucci; Collected Stories by Elizabeth Bowen; A Russian Affair by Anton Chekhov
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