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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers


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About the Author

Yiyun Li is the author of four works of fiction--Kinder Than Solitude, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants, and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl--and the memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. A native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is the recipient of many awards, including a PEN/Hemingway Award and a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the "20 Under 40" fiction writers to watch. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories, among other publications. She teaches at Princeton University and lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband and their two sons.


Yiyun Li's stories have been published in The New Yorker and garnered her the Plimpton Prize for New Writers. Her debut collection creates intimate scenes of life in a China in transition, a subject she knows personally as a Beijing native (she immigrated to the United States in 1996). Traditional ways adapt to a proscribed Communist way and adapt again for the newly capitalistic society. In the opening story, "Extra," Granny, a single woman of 50, retires involuntarily, finds menial work at a children's school, and develops a close maternal relationship with a lonely young boy. "After a Life" looks at the Su family's attachment to their mentally retarded and severely handicapped daughter and how this affects the parents' marriage and relationship with their son. "Son" tells the story of a young man who, on a visit from the United States, tells his mother that he is gay. In "Persimmons," villagers discuss the heroism of Lao Da. No matter the theme-be it human redundancy in an overpopulated country or the complex nature of the parent-child relationship-these stories are complex, moving, and surprising. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

A beautifully executed debut collection of 10 stories explores the ravages of the Cultural Revolution on modern Chinese, both in China and America. "Extra" portrays the grim plight of Granny Lin, an elderly widow without a pension, whose job as a maid at a boarding school outside Beijing leads to a surprising friendship with one of her young charges, Kang. Li deftly weaves a political message into her human portraits: young Kang, the son of a powerful man and his now "disfavored" first wife, is an "extra"-that is, as useless in the new society as Granny Lin has become. A hollowed-out recluse in the collective apartment block of "Death Is Not a Bad Joke If Told the Right Way," Mr. Pang-once denounced by his work colleagues as being "a dog son of the evil landlord class"-still appears daily at a job where he is no longer even paid, and spends his home life counting grains of rice on his chopsticks. Even the charmed fatherless boy of "Immortality," his face so like Chairman Mao's that he's chosen to be the dictator's impersonator after Mao's death, falls from favor eventually, ending his days as a self-castrated parasite. These are powerful stories that encapsulate tidily epic grief and longing. Agent, Richard Abate. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Yiyun Li is a true storyteller. Great stories offer us the details of life on the riverbanks: birth, family, dinner, and love, all framing the powerful flow of terror, death, political change, the river itself. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is as grand an epic and as tenderly private as a reader could wish."
-Amy Bloom, author of Come to Me

"With great tenderness, tact, and humor, these stories open a world that is culturally remote from us, and at the same time as humanly intimate as if its people were our own family and their thoughts the thoughts that lie nearest our own hearts."
-Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead and Housekeeping "This extraordinary collection reminds you just how big a short story can be. With wit, ruthlessness, and an understanding of human nature-its grand follies, private sorrows, and petty dreams-A Thousand Years of Good Prayers may remind you of Flannery O'Connor, though Li is an original. Read this book and marvel at a writer both at the height of her powers and at the start of a brilliant career."
-Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant's House

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