In the history of “One Book, One Chicago,” Yiyun Li’s Gold Boy, Emerald Girl is the first book by an author I’ve never heard of. To which I say, bravo, Chicago Public Library. The purpose of a book club is to expose yourself to work you wouldn’t have discovered on your own.
According to the library:
Yiyun Li is one of contemporary literature’s masters of the short story. Her work has been published extensively and received countless awards, including the Plimpton Prize from The Paris Review and a Pushcart Prize. In 2010 Li received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship. A native of China who moved to the United States in 1996 at the age of 23, she set out to study immunology but changed course and began to write stories in English, still the only language in which she writes.
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl is a collection of nine short stories all set in China between the 1970s and the present date. Its stories and characters share a captivating simplicity both in style and substance, and will unveil a China and a people very similar to us. The world Li creates is populated by ordinary Chinese people and the daily joys and challenges of their lives—from a girl in the army trying to keep her distance for self-preservation, to the woman who takes in wives and families of inmates on death row, to the man who has returned to China after years in the U.S. and has secrets from the mother who takes him in.
The library has numerous events planned around the book, including a visit from the author herself.
Yiyun Li discusses the book with Achy Obejas at the Harold Washington Library Center on April 19; Author and scholar Jeffrey Wasserstrom presents a lecture on 21st century presented in partnership with Chicago Sister Cities; The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago offer a week of screenings of the documentary film Mulberry Child, which shares many themes from Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and features local author Jian Ping; Silk Road Rising theatre troupe stage a reading from the book;A concert of music inspired by Li’s stories presented with the Chinese Fine Arts Society; A tour of Chinatown with the Chinese Cultural Institute; The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago present a lecture and exhibits; An open mic night for teens in YOUmedia at the Chicago Public Library. As they have for each of the One Book, One Chicago selections, the Department of English at DePaul University will offer a course based on the book, along with panel discussions and lectures on their Lincoln Park campus.
Seeing as Saul Bellow and Willa Cather weren’t available, the library might want to pick more books by living writers willing to visit Chicago.
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