Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl” as Want to Read:
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  2,233 ratings  ·  339 reviews
In these spellbinding stories, Yiyun Li gives us exquisite fiction filled with suspense, depth, and beauty, in which history, politics, and folklore magnificently illuminate the human condition.

In these spellbinding stories, Yiyun Li, Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner and acclaimed author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants, gives us exquisite fiction
Hardcover, 221 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Random House
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,233 ratings  ·  339 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
This is a collection of short stories set in China but written in English for an English speaking readership. They are all fine enough stories technically but for me something was missing, it was a bit like sitting on a bench in autumn watching the leaves fall from the trees, sometimes you are in the mood for it and sometimes not. So I find myself in the position of writing that the stories are all capable, coherent and consistent but that I would not particularly recommend them, and I don't exp ...more
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Edward Rathke
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
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
Leslie Reese
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I began reading these nine stories, I thought: "I can't really like this book; it's going to be woeful, and I need something to uplift my spirits." I am glad I continued to read. Because the writing was honest and well-crafted, I steadily grew fond and respectful of the ensemble of plain, sorrowful, seemingly unheroic people whose stories are told.

You know the sensation of taking a well-deserved vacation that is too short?---the way it takes a few days to get the hang of no longer obeying
Read: April 2018

Kindness - 5/5 stars
A Man Like Him - 3.5/5 stars
Prison - 3/5 stars
The Proprietress - 3.5/5 stars
House Fire - 4/5 stars
Number Three, Garden Road - 3/5 stars
Sweeping Past - 4/5 stars
Souvenir - 2/5 stars
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl - 4/5 stars
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Joanna Luloff
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
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? ...more
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
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
Joan Kerr
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
"My father, on the way home, warned me gently that the chickens were too young to last more than a day or two. I built a nest for the chicks out of a shoebox and ripped newspaper, and fed them water-softened millet grains and a day later, when they looked ill, aspirin dissolved in water. Two days later they died, the one I named Dot and marked with ink on his forehead the first one to go, followed by Mushroom. I stole two eggs from the kitchen when my father went to help a neighbour fix a leakin ...more
Pickle Farmer
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Oct 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook-st, yiyun-li

"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
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Li is the sort of writer who will be remembered for a long time to come, if there is any justice in this life. As with most fiction by Chinese or Chinese-American writers, the publishers have decided to market it as a selection of snapshots from "the China of the 21st century, where economic development has led to situations unknown to previous decades" (to quote the jacket description). I suppose the idea is to rope in a few business students looking for something current, that gives them the " ...more
Annika Park
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Stevens
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The first story really got to me for some reason and made me keep going. There are some other pretty decent stories in there as well. The best way to describe them is to say that the stories are kind of boring, but also kind of powerful.
Zack Quaintance
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Like Li's first set of stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, the tales in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl feel mythic and grandiose yet familiar scope. A standout, in my opinion, is House Fire, which examines domestic lives lived through multiple perspectives by moving seamlessly between six narrators, all of whom draw from six decades of life experience, packing with rich ambition and quick bouts of whimsy. The other bit I'd like to note, is the last line of the last story in this collection, which ...more
Andrea Mullarkey
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories
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
Linda Robinson
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Christopher Novas
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
I would go to 3.5 stars on this one. In general, it feels as though Li is trying a new approach to the story and to me it doesn't always succeed. For example, many of the stories conclude with a couple of sentences that interpret the story's meaning - sometimes it satisfies, but often I find it doesn't, but has an unwanted (to me) distancing effect.

The characters, though, remain riveting, helping to counteract in some measure the bleakness of the poverty and cruelty laced throughout the stories.
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Oct 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jane Ciabattari
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My interview with Yiyun Li, The Daily Beast:


and my review of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl:
K.p. Suba
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I can't remember when I have felt so drawn in to short stories which are not of the O'Henry style. Each one is poignant in its own way and put together give such a kaleidoscopic view of China that it is tempting to want to continue the stories in your mind. ...more
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
This woman has a remarkable ability to write haunting stories that stay with you for a considerable time.
Loved it. Simple, rough and heartbreaking.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
There are many useless nerds with a good 1 3 Sep 05, 2015 02:44AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • After The Carnage
  • Florida
  • Beijing Coma
  • Obit
  • The Office of Historical Corrections
  • Sorry Please Thank You
  • We That Are Young
  • Twilight of the Superheroes
  • A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
  • Travel Light
  • Shelter in Place
  • Pure Hollywood: And Other Stories
  • Kwiaty w pudełku. Japonia oczami kobiet
  • Night at the Fiestas
  • Breasts and Eggs
  • The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American Stories Since 1970
  • The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop
  • Untold Night and Day
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
381 likes · 37 comments
“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.” 4 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.” 4 likes
More quotes…