Happy Birthday, Yiyun Li, born 4 November 1972
- There is nothing selfish, dazzling, or preposterous about dreamers; in everyday life they blend in rather than stand out, though it’s not hiding. A real dreamer must have a mutual trust with time.
- I wish people would ask me about the importance of the imagination. I really believe that one should be able to imagine being somebody else. This is important for writers, but it’s also important for readers, and for all human beings to be able to imagine being somebody else.
- When I first started writing, I thought a lot about the shape of the stories—do you have a triangle or a rectangle, or do you have a mirror image? Is one character a mirror image of the other? What variation did you do with the characters to make that interesting?
- Bad things happen—wars, plagues, parents abandoning their children, the heartless preying on those with hearts—and no one, not a human or a god, will intervene.
- Oftentimes if a story did not work, I would rescue one character or two characters—or one paragraph—from the story and start all over. Which actually was very efficient for me, I think. You can spend so much time revising.
- I think I’m just writing about human nature and it just so happens that my characters are Chinese.
- What a long way it is from one life to another: yet why write if not for that distance; if things can be let go, every before replaced by an after.
- When the dead departed, they took away any falsehoods that they might have allowed us to believe while alive; we who are left behind have to embark on a different life, since the dead are no longer here to help us deceive ourselves.
- To write about a struggle amidst the struggling: one must hope that the muddling will end someday.
Li is a Chinese American writer. Her works include the short story collections A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, and the novel The Vagrants.
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