Yiyun Li (Chinese: 李翊雲; born November 4, 1972) is a Chinese-American writer. Her short stories and novels have won several awards and distinctions, including the PEN/Hemingway Award and Guardian First Book Award for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.[1][2] She is presently an editor of the Brooklyn-based literary magazine A Public Space.[3]

Yiyun Li
Native name
Born (1972-11-04) November 4, 1972 (age 47)
Beijing, China
Occupationauthor, Professor at Princeton University
Alma materPeking University, University of Iowa
Notable awardsMacArthur Fellow


Li grew up in Beijing, China. Her mother was a teacher and her father worked as a nuclear physicist, a profession in which talk of emigration to the United States was common.[4] Following a year of military service, she went on to earn a B.S. at Peking University in 1996. In the same year she moved to the US and in 2000 earned an MS in immunology at The University of Iowa. In 2005 she earned an MFA degree in creative nonfiction and fiction from The Nonfiction Writing Program and the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. 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.

Li had a breakdown in 2012 and attempted suicide twice. After recuperating and leaving the hospital, she lost interest in writing fiction and for a whole year she focused on reading several biographies, memoirs, diaries and journals. According to her, reading about other people's lives "was a comfort".[6] She has taught fiction at the University of California, Davis, and is a professor of creative writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.[7]



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.[13]

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.[14]



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


  • The Vagrants (Random House, 2009)
  • Kinder than Solitude (Random House, 2014)
  • Where Reasons End (Random House, 2019)

Short fictionEdit


Short storiesEdit

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Extra 2003 "Extra". New Yorker. December 22, 2003. ?
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 (ed.). 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 (ed.). The best American short stories 2009. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl 2008 "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl". New Yorker. October 13, 2008. Li, Yiyun (2010). Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. Random House.
Alone 2009 "Alone". New Yorker. November 16, 2009.
The Science Of Flight 2010 "The Science of Flight". New Yorker. August 30, 2010. ?
A Small Sacrifice 2010 "A Small Sacrifice". The Threepenny Review. 123. Fall 2010. ?
A Sheltered Woman 2014 "A Sheltered Woman". New Yorker. March 10, 2014. Li, Yiyun (2015). A Sheltered Woman. HarperCollins.
On The Street Where You Live 2017 "On The Street Where You Live". New Yorker. January 9, 2017. ?
A Small Flame 2017 "A Small Flame". New Yorker. May 8, 2017. ?
A Flawless Silence 2018 A Flawless Silence. New Yorker. April 23, 2018 ?
All Will Be Well 2019 All Will Be Well. New Yorker. March 11, 2019 ?

Essays and reportingEdit

  • December 22–29, 2014: "Listening Is Believing," The New Yorker, Vol. 90, No. 41, p. 88
  • January 2, 2017: "To Speak Is to Blunder: Choosing to renounce a mother tongue," The New Yorker, Vol. 92, No. 43, pp. 30–33 [15]


  1. ^ "Interview with Yiyun Li, 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award Winner | The Hemingway Society". www.hemingwaysociety.org. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  2. ^ Staff, Guardian (2006-12-06). "Interview with Guardian First Book Award winner Yiyun Li". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  3. ^ A Public Space.
  4. ^ 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. ^ "Yiyun Li". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  6. ^ Laity, Paul (2017-02-24). "Yiyun Li: 'I used to say that I was not an autobiographical writer – that was a lie'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
  7. ^ "Yiyun Li". Lewis Center for the Arts. Retrieved 2018-05-12.
  8. ^ a b Taylor, Charlie (15 June 2011). "Colum McCann wins Impac award". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Yiyun Li - Professor of English". University of California, Davis. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  10. ^ Walsh, Caroline. "Two Irish authors make awards shortlist". The Irish Times. 9 July 2011.
  11. ^ Flood, Alison. "Strong showing for Irish writers on Frank O'Connor shortlist". The Guardian. 9 July 2011.
  12. ^ "The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2015 - Winner". Booktrust. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  13. ^ Stephanie Merritt (15 February 2009). "Madness after Mao". The Observer.
  14. ^ Ian Thomson (13 February 2009). "The Vagrants, By Yiyun Li". The Independent.
  15. ^ Access date April 23, 2017

External linksEdit