Chicago Public Library‘s One Book, One Chicago (OBOC) program this spring has selected Chinese author Yiyun Li’s Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, a collection of short stories. Li came to Chicago to conduct a “conversation” with Achy Obejas, a Chicago author, to discuss about her book and meet with readers in the city at the Harold Washington Library Center on Thursday, April 19.
Li is the first Chinese author being featured in the OBOC program.
“It’s a great honor,” Li said in our conversation.
I asked her about her experience of writing in English, Li said writing was all about telling stories, no matter in what language. “I started writing in English. In a way, English is my first language in writing,” she said.
Born in 1972 in Beijing, Li moved to the U.S. 1996. She graduated from the famed Iowa Writers’ workshop with M.F.A. in 2005 and has published many short stories in major magazines in the West. She has received numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2010, Li was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 20 writers under 40.
“Li’s book is one of the more contemporary stories set in modern China,” Susan Huizinga, a friend in my book reading group commented. “What struck me most in her stories is the sadness as a common thread. Listening to her talking tonight helped me understand better,” she continued.
Annie Tully, director of Chicago Public Library’s OBOC program said the selection of Li’s book was appealing to Chicago readers. “Everyone wants to know more about China right now…. More people are drawn to it because it’s a Chinese author and the stories are set in China.”
OBOC runs twice a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. This spring’s program will continue to the end of April. In addition to Li’s book, the program has also included film screening, performances, lectures, and discussions throughout the city. It’s one of Chicago’s major cultural events. There is still a few days and programs left before the end of the month. Read the book and check out the programs!
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.