Chicago writer Achy Obejas interviews Yiyun Li about her life and work and the inspiration behind her intimate stories.
Yiyun Li was born in 1972 in Beijing. Along with her parents and one sister, she lived in an apartment complex built as housing for employees of the Department of Nuclear Industry, where her father worked as a physicist. After receiving her bachelor of science from Peking University, in 1996 she moved to the United States to study immunology at the University of Iowa. However, after taking a writing course as a way to improve her English, she found herself writing fiction. She decided to change the focus of her studies, entering the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop after receiving her M.S. in 2000. She earned her M.F.A. in 2005 with a focus on fiction and creative nonfiction.
Soon after Li’s short stories began appearing in major U.S. magazines, publishers at Random House sought her out for a collection. In spring 2007, Li was named by Granta magazine as one of the best young American writers alongside Kevin Brockmeier, Maile Meloy, Gary Schteyngart, Karen Russell, and others. In 2010 Li published Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, a collection of stories set entirely in China. She set out, she has said, to write personal stories not centered on politics or history even if they are affected by them.
This event is part of the series of free events surrounding the latest One Book, One Chicago selection Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. One Book, One Chicago was launched in fall 2001 as an opportunity to engage and enlighten our residents, foster a sense of community, and create a culture of reading in our city.