Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
Random House
Yiyun Li
“Gold Boy, Emerald Girl”

“Gold Boy, Emerald Girl,” is from Yiyun Li’s story collection by the same name (Random House, 2011). She is the author of one novel and two story collections, including GOLD BOY, EMERALD GIRL, which was nominated for The Story Prize. Her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. She was selected by Granta as one of the 21 Best Young American Novelists under 35, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 20 writers under 40. MacArthur Foundation named her a 2010 fellow. She grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons.


Li said this about her story: “Gold boy, emerald girl” is a phrase borrowed from Chinese, which means a perfect match: a handsome and rich man, a young and beautiful girl. Yet any flawlessness is worth questioning, and this story explores what is underneath the calm surface maintained by the three characters in this moment of their lives: the couple destined to a mismatch, and the older woman who wills such a match to take place. For lovers of short stories, this story was written with William Trevor’s story, “Three People,” in mind. The two stories–one set in China, one set in Ireland–are as different as people from the two countries can be, but it is my hope that the two stories talk to–and find kinship in–each other.


Francine Prose, writing in the New York Times, said of the collection:  What’s distinctive about Yiyun Li’s work is the contrast between its emotional intensity and its calm, measured tone, a literary voice that brings to mind Nabokov’s description of Chekhov’s narrative style.

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