Yiyun Li

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Yiyun Li
Native name 李翊雲
Born (1972-11-04) November 4, 1972 (age 44)
Occupation University of California, Davis
Alma mater Peking University, The University of Iowa,
Notable awards MacArthur Fellow

Yiyun Li (李翊雲) (born November 4, 1972) is a Chinese American writer. Her debut short story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers won the 2005 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and her second collection Gold Boy, Emerald Girl was shortlisted for the same award. Her debut novel The Vagrants was shortlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2015, Yiyun Li's A Sheltered Woman won the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.[1][2]

She was named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. She is an editor of Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space.[3]


Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing, China. Her mother was a teacher and her father worked as a nuclear physicist, a profession where talk of emigration to the United States was common.[4] Following a year in the army, she went on to earn a B.S. at Peking University in 1996. In the same year she moved to the US and earned an MS in immunology at The University of Iowa, an MFA in creative nonfiction from the Nonfiction Writing Program at The University of Iowa, and an MFA in fiction from Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker,[5] The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All-Story. Two of the stories from A Thousand Years of Good Prayers were adapted into 2007 films directed by Wayne Wang: The Princess of Nebraska and the title story, which Li adapted herself.


She lives in Oakland, California,[4] with her husband and their two sons, and teaches at University of California, Davis.[6]



Stephanie Merritt of The Observer wrote,

Yiyun Li's 2005 debut story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers earned her comparisons with Chekhov and Alice Munro. Her first novel, The Vagrants, draws heavily on the art of the short story as it follows a disparate group of citizens of the industrial town of Muddy River over three months in 1979.[11]

Ian Thomson of The Independent wrote,

With its controlled understatement and scrupulous and unsparing lucidity, The Vagrants is a work of great moral poise and dignity. These days, few writers can be said to possess gravitas; yet Yiyun Li exudes a seriousness that would be remarkable in one twice her age. As a chronicle of political betrayal under a modern dictatorship, The Vagrants is a minor classic; I have not read such a compelling work in years.[12]



  • Li, Yiyun (2009). The Vagrants. Random House. 
  • — (2014). Kinder than Solitude. Random House. 

Short fiction[edit]


  • Li, Yiyun (2005). A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. Random House. 
  • — (2010). Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. Random House. 

Short stories[edit]

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
The Proprietress 2005 "The Proprietress". Zoetrope: All-Story. 9 (4). Fall 2005.  ?
House Fire 2007 "House Fire". Granta. 97: Best of Young American Novelists 2. Spring 2007.  ?
Prison 2006 "Prison". Tin House (28). Summer 2006.  Li, Yiyun (2008). "Prison". In Furman, Laura. The O. Henry Prize stories 2008. New York: Anchor Books. 
A Man Like Him 2008 "A Man Like Him". New Yorker. May 12, 2008.  Li, Yiyun (2009). "A man like him". In Sebold, Alice. The best American short stories 2009. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 
A Small Sacrifice 2010 "A Small Sacrifice". The Threepenny Review. 123. Fall 2010.  ?


  • Li, Yiyun (2017). Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. Random House. 

Essays and reporting[edit]

  • Li, Yiyun (December 22–29, 2014). "Listening is believing". Inner Worlds. The New Yorker. 90 (41): 88. 
  • Yiyun Li, contributor's page in The New Yorker[13]


  1. ^ "The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2015 - Winner". Booktrust. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Flood, Alison (24 April 2015). "Yiyun Li wins Sunday Times short story prize for A Sheltered Woman". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  3. ^ A Public Space.
  4. ^ a b Laity, Paul (24 February 2017). "Yiyun Li: 'I used to say that I was not an autobiographical writer – that was a lie'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  5. ^ The New Yorker bio.
  6. ^ Yiyli at UC Davis.
  7. ^ Battersby, Eileen (16 June 2011). "'I decided to write the great Irish novel but couldn't. I wasn't messed-up enough'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Walsh, Caroline. "Two Irish authors make awards shortlist". The Irish Times. 9 July 2011.
  9. ^ Flood, Alison. "Strong showing for Irish writers on Frank O'Connor shortlist". The Guardian. 9 July 2011.
  10. ^ "British Newcomer Vies With International Literary Names For Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award". The Sunday Times. 1 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Stephanie Merritt (15 February 2009). "Madness after Mao". The Observer. 
  12. ^ Ian Thomson (13 February 2009). "The Vagrants, By Yiyun Li". The Independent. 
  13. ^ http://www.newyorker.com/contributors/yiyun-li

External links[edit]