Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: Stories
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Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: Stories

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  994 ratings  ·  192 reviews
In these spellbinding stories, Yiyun Li, a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner, a MacArthur Fellow, and one ofThe 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. A...more
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Published September 14th 2010 by Random House (first published 2010)
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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...more
Nov 26, 2011 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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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
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...more
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.
Jane Ciabattari
My interview with Yiyun Li, The Daily Beast:


and my review of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl:
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.
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...more
This collection was set up in two halves with the first half being a novella, and the second half about a dozen or so short stories. I appreciated the short stories much more than the novella.

Yiyun Li has expressed in many interviews and readings that she is a big admirer of William Trevor’s work. This is abundantly clear after reading the short stories in this collection. Li uses a voice and style that are very reminiscent of William Trevor. At least to me.

I didn’t care for the novella that a...more
Kindness, the first story in China-born, United States-based writer Yiyun Li’s second collection, opens: “I am a 41-year-old woman living by myself, in the same one-bedroom flat where I have always lived, in a derelict building on the outskirts of Beijing that is threatened to be demolished by government-backed real estate developers.”

The narrator’s description of herself captures, in spirit, the characters that people Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, which follows Li’s novel The Vagrants and her debut c...more
Lydia Presley
Original review posted here

I’ve been doing a lot of short story reading lately. I’ve become fairly familiar with them as a result, but I’ll tell you this – this collection was unlike anything I’ve read yet.

Really, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl contains a novella and some short stories. The novella was interesting – but it was the latter stories that really hit me hard. The title story was the most poignant. In such a short span of pages, Yiyun Li establishes such a relationship between her reader and h...more
Thank you for the gift, Maggie and Heal (and Baby Flash)!
I gobbled up these stories; the first remained my favorite, I think, almost a novella, "Kindness"--incredibly subtle and melancholy; I feel both far away from and very intimate with these first-person narrators that tell their stories in such a sweeping way (like Alice Munro in the telling-of-the-life -- also, Yiyun is like Munro in the not-so-jeweled prose that inevitably and mysteriously still achieves a kind of lyricism, maybe because o...more
Yiyun Li is a very skilled writer, and she consistently displays immense emotional power with an understated style reminiscent of Ha Jin. The ending was a little off in a few of the stories, but that's the only mark against this 4.5 star collection. Very few authors are as adept at inhabiting the mind of either gender at any age, but Li does exceptionally well here.

The longest story, Kindness, gives a novella-length tale of life for women in the People's Army and effectively uses the weather an...more
An interesting collection of short stories set in China. The thread that tied them all together, I thought, is varying levels of alienation among the protagonists. One story (the first one) had such an emotionally detached narrator that you almost felt she was a psychopath--not in the knife-wielding maniac sense, but in the clinical "this person doesn't care about anything" sense. It was really interesting getting inside the heads of these types of characters.

One story featured a woman who seeme...more
brilliant writing, creating a mood unlike any other author I have ever read.

some quotes or passages I liked:

p. 163 " "Did you love her when you married her?" Mrs. Cheng said.
Dao said that he supposed he loved her, or else he would not have agreed to marry her. Mrs. Tang though he sounded uncertain. What a despicable thing for a man to be so passive."

p. 167 "For some people punishment came as a consequence of their mistakes; for other, punishment came before anything wrong had been done. Welcome...more
Excellent collection of short stories. Under the plot of most of these short stories cultural and historical shifts in Chinese society are on display. What is so beautiful in this book of captured culture is her blending of the multi-generational stories.

She tells the story of each generation through her various characters - a grandmother watching her granddaughter explore a foreign world, a woman watching her hometown grow up around her with new industry, a young recruit in the People's Liberat...more
Margaret McCamant
I don't often choose collections of short stories, but I read this because it's the current Chicago "One City, One Book" selection. Even if I don't go to any events around a book, I like the idea of thousands of us reading the same book at the same time. (Although, I have yet to see anyone reading this one on the train, so maybe not so many are reading as I like to imagine.)

None of these stories would be called happy, but they do paint pictures of quiet lives that are quite compelling. The unfam...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
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“His mother had always been a headstrong woman, and with her grayish-white mane and unsmiling face, she appeared as regal and intimidating as she had ever been. Still, seeing her through other people’s eyes, Hanfeng realized that all that made her who she was—the decades of solitude in her widowhood, her coldness to the prying eyes of people who tried to mask their nosiness with friendliness, and her faith in the notion of living one’s own life without having to go out of one’s way for other people—could be deemed pointless and laughable. Perhaps the same could be said of any living creature: a caterpillar chewing on a leaf, unaware of the beak of an approaching bird; an egret mesmerized by its reflection in a pond, as if it were the master of the universe; or Hanfeng’s own folly of repeating the same pattern of hope and heartbreak, hoping despite heartbreak.” 1 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.” 1 likes
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