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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,472 ratings  ·  210 reviews
Brilliant and original, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers introduces a remarkable new writer whose breathtaking stories are set in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States. In this rich, astonishing collection, Yiyun Li illuminates how mythology, politics, history, and culture intersect with personality to create fate. From the bustling heart of Beijing, to a ...more
Paperback, 205 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Milan/zzz
I finished this book and I have mixed feelings. Not because the stories are bad. On the contrary, they are quite good. What bothered me is that almost aggressive anti-communistic attitude. There is one sentence where old Iranian woman says "I love China. China a good country, very old" and that would be pretty much everything said positive about China (and that comes from the mouth of Iranian woman who never visited the country she's talking about!).

I don't have doubts that communism in China wa
...more
Стефан Русинов
Подхванах я от чисто професионално любопитство, без да очаквам много, но я изчетох с кеф.

Писането на Июн Ли е на границата с документалното, почти журналистическо. Тя изобщо не ни/си губи времето със себе си, погледът й е насочен изцяло към проблемното в света, предполагам оттук и хладното, неукрасено разказване, което е увлекателно и по същество — не се разчита на никакви езикови трикове (кажете “езикови трикове” три пъти), макар че има някои доста приятни заигравки с наративния ритъм, рязки и
...more
Monique

Original post here.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li is one of the books that I was dared to read this year, courtesy of the book club's I Dare You To Read year-ender/welcome activity last January. A short backgrounder: participants to the activity were asked to name one Best Read and one Worst Read for 2013 (if they could bring their print copies or share digital copies of the books, that would be even better), and then everyone gets to pick one title each from the collated Best Re
...more
Jenny
Jan 25, 2012 Jenny rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny by: MacArthur genius
My first unbeknownst exposure to Yiyun Li was in the Wayne Wang film, The Princess of Nebraska, which was based on Li’s story of the same name. My first thought was if it was your decision to cast Boshen as a white guy in the film then shame on you Wayne Wang! Boshen is supposed to be Chinese! I think that makes it a lot more interesting and slightly less creepy than a middle aged white man who is in love with an 18 year old Chinese man. I like the tension between Sasha and Boshen because they’r ...more
Rashaan
Yiyun Li came to read at Saint Mary's College of California in the Bay Area a year or so ago, and I'll never forget how she explained her method of creating drama. In a crude paraphrasing, from what I can fuzzily recall, she said each of her characters are strategically angled in opposition to one another. And these angles are where she starts from, so the story's conflict is immediate and urgent.

In her short story collection A Thousand Good Years of Prayers each character vies to break free fr
...more
Cecily
Ten short stories, each encapsulating a different aspect (and often, era) of Chinese life, behaviour and culture. Brilliantly evocative and plausible.

Marian
Stunning, bleak, honest, and often chilling. At least one story is somewhat marred by awkwardness but the overall quality and nerve are at such a high level that it hardly matters.
James
Perhaps if anybody might have a stake in the trans-cultural, Asian-Ameican literary tradition, alongside say Jhumpa Lahiri and Chang-Rae Lee, then Yiyun Li [herself following a well-worn heritage of Amy Tan, Gish Jen etc.] might be that author. Published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and Glimmer Train, Li seems to be what America wants - but perhaps not what America needs? I had high hopes for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, it having won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story awar ...more
Ernest Junius
All in the same theme, Yiyun Li's stories are all about (pretty much) Chinese people who try to run away (to the States). Very interesting descriptions and prose style; Li's words are heavily coloured by the vibrant colours of China revolution. She summons Mao a lot in her book, also famous Chinese proverbs, and the less famous one and the more obscure too. These are quite refreshing to me, as this book is the first book from a Chinese author I've ever read.

I noted too, a few other interesting p
...more
Debbie
This was my bookclub read for April and I have to confess that I didn't finish it. I'm not a fan of short stories and so put off reading it until I just didn't have enough time to finish it in the time available. However, as far as short stories go, these ones were better than a lot I've read. Which isn't saying much, but it's something!

The writing was good, but the stories themselves were very negative and depressing. They dealt with the lives of Chinese people in modern day China and all the c
...more
Lillian
A book of short stories many of them brutal and written in sparse pointed language, illustrating the barrenness and futility of the characters whose lives the stories depict. There are 9 stories of Chinese people, some immigrants to the United States, some still living in China. The last story, titled, A thousand Years of Good Prayers is the most intriguing and poignant story. It is the one from which the book takes it's title. The father in the story, is concerned with his daughter's unwillingn ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

With a Plimpton Prize and publications in the New Yorker and Paris Review, Li has found her natural medium: writing stories in her nonnative English. Her language is simple and graceful, her observations of modern life penetrating and moving. In her book debut, she has rendered, with freshness, the rich tapestry of global Chinese life in all its complexity, angst, and comfort.

This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

Lauren Strickland
I discovered Yuyan Li a few years ago, when I picked up a copy of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl - which is fantastic, and a work that I highly recommend.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is an excellent collection of stories, though unlike GB, EG, which is uniformly excellent, ATYOGP has some average stories and the collection as a whole is balanced out by some stories which are far superior.

The highlights of this collection were, for me, After A Life, the title story, and - my personal favourite - De
...more
Nezzo
Дълго време се чудих колко звезди заслужава тази книга. Не са пет, сякаш не са и четири. Но прозата на Июн Ли си я бива, колкото и да е кратка, неподредена и обичайна за Азия. И дори за човек като мен, който не си пада по книги пълни с орязана проза в тази има нещо, което е интересно и подхранващо вкуса към източните култури. Които така или иначе не са лесни за разбиране в простичкият си живот обременен от толкова много политика, правила и разочаровани малки хора.
Shirley Thomas
This is my first Yiyun Li and I'm definitely going to read more.

It is a collection of short stories set mostly in Mao's era, or shortly before.

I have always had a personal connection with Chinese culture and literature, being raised by a Chinese grandmother. There is always atmosphere in Chinese literature that almost made me tear up for those days when I was the little girl my grandma loved the most. Those of you who know grandmother's love will recognize this, and those of you who know Chinese
...more
Shreela Sen
I absolutely loved this book. As Indians, sometimes we are really dissappointed in our lot & think that China has all the solutions. At other times, we shudder at the execution of the "one child" policy, or the Govt control of the media - which is so absolute! (It happens in India too, but at a covert level, PLUS, the Govt itself REALLY changes every 5 years)
This book really welcomed me to the life on earth of some of our neighbours, close, yet so far, & these were not explorations of an
...more
Xueqi Teo
All the stories are engaging. None of them is boring. Loved them!
Definitely will read Yiyun Li's other books.

Favorite quotes:

“Does marriage have such a revolutionary power that a long-established habit can be overthrown in such a short time?”

“She wonders if this is what people call falling in love, the desire to be with someone for every minute of the rest of her life so strong that sometimes she is frightened of herself.”

“Our life, we realize, is not as happy as we have been taught to think.”
...more
Nicki
I found these stories quite peculiar really. Partly i think because they are from a completely different time and culture to mine. I can't decide if I liked the writing style either as it's all tied up with the culture. They are not uplifting stories at all, just strange, but maybe that is because they are from a very hard time ?
Abby
The stories that were published in acclaimed magazines read like awkward, stilted clunkers. Ironically, it is the stories that have not been previously published that shine like small, unpolished gems. The title story is a subtle yet powerful tour de force that hints at Li's promise as a new voice in American literature.
Maria
Practicamente me lo leí entre estando en buses y estando sola en la universidad.

Me encantaron algunas historias y otras ni fueron tan buenas, pero me gusto mucho la idea general de los cuentos.

Mil años de buenos deseos.
Elizabeth
"Pragmatic" was the word we argued over in workshop. "I think he means unromantic," went the clarification. Bare bones, unsentimental, and moving, in both sense of the word, in strange directions. I love these.
Lyn
I don't know. Overall, it is just another bunch of stories with the very typical content: partially scar literature, partially the topic of the Chinese overseas, estrangement, injustice. An easy read perfect for a train journey, nothing special. Yet at the same time, there are several glitching gems hidden deeep underneath, little things that made me stop, think or even cry, touched me deeply. These are not dependent on the cultural context, more like transcending towards the universality of hum ...more
Ferris
Are you curious about life in China? Not the lives reported to us by the Chinese government, but as shared by someone who grew up there? This collection of short stories, the author's debut and winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, is absolutely wonderful. Each story offers up insight innto the everyday lives of average Chinese, both in China, and after immigrating to the United States. YiYun Li's prose is peaceful and eloquent. The reader learns about the ways the Revolu ...more
Porter
An amazing anthology of short tales that - even if fictional - describe accurate, miniature portraits of real lives in China. Not all of them take place in China - but in the China that immigrants brought with them in their hearts to the places they live in, and make a life in now. Many are sad or will bring a bitter smile to your face as you sympathize with the hardships and misunderstandings the characters on the pages encounter.

With titles like: "The Princess of Nebraska" and "Death is Not a
...more
Brohanu
8/10

These short stories are written in prose at once pedestrian and poetic. Thought-provoking equivilencies and malformed parables lead the reader to question their own relationships with the themes of the stories; alienation, relationship with society, tradition and change. The stories are layered in symbolism and poetics quite skilfully, and some definitely encourage re-reading to fully grasp the complex themes, and that further analysis is fully rewarded. Moving and memorable.

Favorite stories
...more
Ma'lis Wendt
Well written, but very sad stories of contemporary Chinese peasants in small town China and the US.
Dorothee Lang
I found the book through the Guardian book list "Best books on China". It's my starting point for the "7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books Challenge".

It's both a thought-provoking and touching read. One thing that becomes clear when reading through it: there are countless layers to China and the steps the country has gone through in the recent past, with Mao and his communism campaigns, and then the opening to communist-capitalism, the one-child-laws, and the student protests. Yiyun Li was
...more
Janet Berkman
I'm a bit conflicted about these stories. They are pretty dark: the plight of gays in China, of families with multiple children in China, daughters who don't get along with their parents, who find out secrets, a young man swept into the Party because he looks like the late dictator. The characters in the collection felt relentlessly sad, pained, stuck in helpless situations.

That being said, these stories are finely crafted, intricate sketches of the men, women and young people caught up in diffi
...more
Ann-Marie
Mar 13, 2012 Ann-Marie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ann-Marie by: selma
I liked it even though I normally dont like to read short stories. ...more
Philia
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is my first reading by Yiyun Li.

I expected heavy themes, I enjoyed her stories and her writing which incorporated many wise Chinese proverbs which are quite often used in the Chinese conversations.

I must admit that I'm glad the book was a collection of short stories, as I do not think I could emotionally handle a big dosage of the time and circumstances in which the characters were going through.

Most of the stories left me feeling bleak and apprehensive.
In "Ex
...more
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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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“Every place is a good place, only time goes wrong.” 10 likes
“Only the smaller fish pay for the goverment's face-lift. The big ones - they just become bigger and fatter.” 1 likes
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