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Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: Stories

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  1,298 ratings  ·  219 reviews
In these spellbinding stories, Yiyun Li, a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner, a MacArthur Fellow, and one of The New Yorker’s top 20 fiction writers under 40, gives us exquisite stories in which politics and folklore magnificently illuminate the human condition. A professor introduces her middle-aged son to a favorite student, unaware of the student’s true affections. ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2010)
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Dec 29, 2014 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Cynthia
4 and 1/2 stars

Nuggets and gems (in keeping with the title of this collection) are scattered throughout these stories -- in some it is the culminating line; in others a sentence that at first glance seems like a throwaway. Though the stories are set in China, these are more stories of character, not place, though the changes from an 'old' to a 'new' China and the resulting transitions do inform them.

The opening novella, "Kindness" -- the only story told in the first person -- sets the tone for t
A Unique Voice

The first story, ‘Kindness’, is about a young girl serving her required army stint the year before starting college. She’s led an isolated childhood as an only child of a depressed, unengaged mother and a loving but much older and more tired father who works as a janitor. The child has an odd talent for gaining the interest of influential people such as an aging, lonely literary woman who teaches her to read and appreciate English literature including Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy
Edward Rathke
This is one of the loneliest collections of stories I've ever read. It's also remarkably beautiful, if only because it manages to never fall into despair. The will to go on, to keep living, even when all love is gone, even after realising that love was only a word one never could believe in or that one could no longer believe in. But there is so much more here than that.

--I never showed up in her dreams, I am certain, as people we keep in our memories rarely have a place for us in theirs. You ma
I think this is the book I have enjoyed reading the most this year, and it is also one of the best books I have read this year, in terms of opening a new world open to me. I have read several other Chinese authors, but this is probably my favorite. I felt that the characters were both universal and specific, and that the book was a strong insight into "real" (although it is fiction), human lives in China... and would be interested to know of course what people who know more about real life in Ch ...more
I enjoyed the short stories in this book. I thought it was interesting how all of them involved an older character who was nostalgic or regretful about their past in some way. I like Yiyun Li's writing style. I like the simplicity of her sentences (like when one character compares freedom to a restaurant you get tired of eating at), or how violence always pops up in her plots in ways that really shock you. I like how most of her characters are lonely. Her stories are sad, but somehow not depress ...more
Nov 25, 2012 Judy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Sue
This is one of those books that I couldn't point a finger at and say "This was wrong, that was wrong, I didn't like this..." because it was well-written, the plots and topic was good, but I simply struggled through the stories because they were all so darn depressing....But I guess when loneliness is the theme of the book that should be expected! However, can't a lonely person have something good happen once in a while?
One of the best collections of stories I have ever read. This one I'd buy and keep to re-read!
Yiyun Li's tales have a different perspective; a quiet, wise outlook on the passage of time and humans events. I really enjoyed this one.
Sarah Stevens
I picked up this book on a whim after seeing it displayed prominently at my local public library. It is the One Book, One Chicago 2012 Spring pick, and as a collection of short stories, I thought it would fit into my reading time, which is stolen in snatches and bits from my daily responsibilities.

Each story is a vignette that reveals quietly tragic figures going about their daily lives, but each contains a turning point or special event in their lives that is often the culmination of many years
This is an 80 page novella and 8 short stories, all concerning lonely people, and mostly set in present day China.

The final line of the book, and of the eponymous story, sums them all up, "They were lonely and sad people... and they would not make one another less sad, but they could, with great care, make a world that would accommodate their loneliness", and that glimmer of hope is what ensure this is not a depressing collection.

The novella is about a 40 year old single woman in Beijing
Annika Park
YiYun Li was my gateway to Contemporary Asian Literature - well not Asian literature because they were originally written and published in English. But I think there is something special about asian writers - they have an edge to their writing that you cannot find anywhere else. Their succinct yet all-encompassing prose and distinctly cultural undertones can easily come across as rudimentary and second-rate, but Li's literary craftsmenship and thematic ideas really make her stand out among the c ...more
I wonder at the elegance of Li's writing. Whole stories are beautifully visualized on the page and not one metaphor or similie. It's all just accurately described and the accumulation of accurately described moments adds up to beauty.

I guess I'll quit writing now.
Andrea Mullarkey
This is a powerful collection of stories by Yiyun Li. Most are set in 20th century China and certainly there is a strong sense of time and place. But the dominant feature of the stories are the characters. Li’s main characters are outsiders; people who in various ways have positioned themselves away from their family members, co-workers and the rest of society. They often have different expectations for their lives than the people around them and in many ways they are alone. Through these people ...more

"As innocent as new blossoms, unaware of the time sweeping past like a river."—page 134

Subtlety and futility seem to suffuse the eight short stories of Yiyun Li's nuanced collection, GOLDEN BOY, EMERALD GIRL.

Recommendation: Not a comfortable read for the linear-minded (nothing ever seems to be resolved), but poetically lyrical if you can abide a touch of ambiguity.

"The one to show up at the right time beats the earlier risers."—page 135

"But animosity is easier to live with
Christopher Novas
Crushingly beautiful and sad collection of short stories. The characters in these stories find love to be a word that is never to be believed, or that it is something they can no longer believe in. There is so much sadness seeped into this book, although the men and women you encounter in this collection never falter. The old do not understand the young, and vice versa. The youth do not care. Even though their worlds may be collapsing they have a calm aura about them. They are waiting for the ne ...more
Linda Robinson
Magician, weaver, elegant storyteller, I am awestruck again by Yiyun Li. Her words pull emotions and insights from the corners in our hearts into the light, but gently, like a thoughtful teacher guiding. Her extraordinary talent to connect all humanity in a short story with local characters is ennobling and humbling together. Li grants readers the gift of seeing life with other eyes. Sublime, grandiose, personal. Makes me believe that small stories, told well, can change the shape and color of t ...more
Ivana Ciglar

Written for and published on a Croatian web portal:

„Bili su usamljeni i tužni ljudi, sve troje, i neće si uzajamno umanjiti tugu, ali mogu, vrlo pažljivo, stvoriti svijet koji će prihvatiti njihovu samoću.“

Rečenica koja je uzeta iz pripovijetke „Zlatni dečko, smaragdna djevojka“ najpotpunije ocrtava narav i izričaj ovog djela. Ova fantastična zbirka priča sadrži devet pripovijetki u kojima se u potpunosti razotkriva ljudsko srce i svi njegovi nedostaci i potrebe. Spisateljica Y
This is one of the best story collections I've ever read. The quality of voice, the scope of lives that we meet, the overall tone... incredible. I noticed a few references to Dickens, and I think that's clearly an influence. Most resonant is how many of the stories portray the entire arc of a life or lives, and conclude with a balance of about 6 parts bitterness to 1 part sweet. Poignant! True? Not in line with American beliefs about "happily ever after," that's for sure!
Joanna Luloff
This is a beautifully quiet and restrained collection of stories. Many of them deal with loneliness (often stubbornly self-imposed) as a way to maintain a sense of self. There is nothing showy about these stories, but at the end of almost every one, I wanted to flip back to the beginning and start again to see how they had managed to build up so much psychological punch and complexity. The final story (and title story) is stunning.
Na prvi pogled po koricama, knjiga mi izgleda vedro, opušteno, jel djetelina sa četiri lista (nemam pojma) al me na nju podsjeća. Naslov simpatičan.

Knjiga se sastoji od 9 priča. Ovo je zbirka priča o usamljenosti čovjeka. Sviđa mi se stil pisanja i gotovo svaka priča me ostavila u razmišljanju. Najviše mi se sviđala priča pod naslovom: ''zatvor'' i ''vrtna cesta broj 3''.

- Priča pod naslovom: ''Vrtna cesta broj 3'' čak me na kraju uspjela i mrvicu nasamijati. Priča je o dvoje stanara jedne zgra
This is a collection of short stories that all center on Chinese life, culture, and Li's unbelievable characters. She has really mastered the art of the short story because I feel as if I deeply know the characters within pages of each story beginning. I enjoyed her fluid writing style and I found this a refreshing glimpse into loneliness and hope.
Gopal MS
Beautiful stories from the one of the best short story writers of our times with stories about lonely people and about loneliness. And no, I didn't find it depressing.

Like in India, China seems to be a place where there is a constant struggle between the individual and being part of the group, be it the family or social groups (as in India) or the communist groups and work groups in China and these stories of Individual who are alone in a crowd goes deep into the hearts of the people and their l
Jane Ciabattari
My interview with Yiyun Li, The Daily Beast:


and my review of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl:
The stories in this collection were lovely--wonderfully written, with rich yet minimal detail. Most of them were infused with a sense of loneliness that left me feeling almost melancholy. While I enjoyed this collection, I think that overall I liked her first book, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, more. I think I would actually have liked these stories more if I'd encountered them not all next to each other, because then I would have been able to take more time to let each one sink in and reson ...more
Sarah Loh
I would give this a 3.5 rating actually, I like the writing. The short stories are indeed interesting but they are depressing.
Short stories have been a mystery to me. Sometimes I like them and sometimes, I don't. Generally I prefer a longer (and thus, fuller) reading experience.

This collection of short stories was quirky. Each story unique and imaginative. The language was spare and the tone subtle and reserved (but too subtle and too reserved for my tastes). At times I didn't know when the story ended. That was it? While the approach was up-front or plainspoken, the resolution or climax was illusive or opaque. Or was
Jan Priddy
GOLD BOY, EMERALD GIRL: STORIES by Yiyun Li (Random House, 2010) came highly recommended and I didn't understand why until the title story at the back. These stories are steeped in another culture, which I usually enjoy. There are frequent themes involving adopted children, estranged children, and uncommunicative and distant marriages. None of the stories was poorly written, but none of them touched me in any substantive way until the last one. Then the entire volume felt like a warm-up for that ...more
Sara  (
If this book were a person classified by the Myers-Briggs personality test, it would be an INTJ: a bit of an introvert, a keen observer and sometimes critic of human nature, and pragmatic and unsentimental. That's a tough blend to warm to right away, and indeed the first 2/3 of these stories left me cold. Full of understated writing, lonely bitter characters, and static-feeling stories, I was ready to cast this book aside in favor of something more cheerful or showy. But I really enjoyed the fin ...more
This woman has a remarkable ability to write haunting stories that stay with you for a considerable time.
I wonder if I would have enjoyed the book more if I hadn't listened to the audiobook. These stories might have to be savored to be enjoyed. Most of the short stories don't follow the normal pattern of hooking you with a compelling character with a significant problem, a problem that worsens through the story until the final resolution. The characters do have problems, many complicated by the laws and culture of China. But the problems are revealed throughout the story, and the resolutions are of ...more
Yvann S
“‘The moment you admit someone into your heart you make yourself a fool,’ she said. ‘When you desire nothing, nothing will defeat you. Do you understand, Moyan?’”

In this highly-acclaimed volume of short stories, Li examines what it is to be a girl in modern China; adoptive daughters, female soldiers, old spinsters and marriages of convenience all come under consideration in her spare prose, in her little vignettes which rarely touch on the plot and involve few men. Mostly, this is a collection o
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There are many useless nerds with a good 1 2 Sep 05, 2015 02:44AM  
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Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing, China and moved to the United States in 1996. She received an MFA from Iowa Writers' Workshop and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. Her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review,and elsewhere. She has received a Whiting Writers' Award and was awarded a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, TX. Her debut ...more
More about Yiyun Li...

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“I never showed up in her dreams, I am certain, as people we keep in our memories rarely have a place for us in theirs.” 2 likes
“They were lonely and sad people, all three of them, and they would not make one another less sad, but they could, with great care, make a world that would accommodate their loneliness.” 2 likes
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