Kinder Than Solitude
Kinder Than Solitude – Excerpt
“Kinder Than Solitude – Excerpt” is the first chapter of Yiyun Li’s new novel, Kinder Than Solitude (Random House). Li is the author of one previous novel and two story collections, including Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (2010). She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and a MacArthur fellowship. Many of her stories have appeared in The New Yorker. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons.
Growing up in Beijing as the daughter of a physicist, Li seemed destined for a career in science. She said to the New York Times: “My parents were very much against writing and even very much against me reading literature, which they thought put wrong thoughts in your head. I don’t think they liked me reading anything but science. But I enjoyed literature always, from the beginning.”
Ms. Li heeded the siren call to write about a dozen years ago, abandoning medicine and enrolling in the Iowa Writers Program. Here work since has been highly praised. 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. These feats have been made all the more remarkable by her own story: When she arrived in the United States, in 1996, she had written nothing in either Chinese or English, a language she was just learning to speak.
John Freeman, former Editor of Granta, said: “She’s an interesting case for a writer writing in a second language. There’s an elegance and smoothness to her writing that is actually disguising the quite passionate and intense feelings of equivocation and loss that her characters feel. She’s almost a 19th-century writer: You can feel tradition speaking through her work in a way that doesn’t exist today.”