Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
celebrating the release of her new book
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life
published by Random House
In her first nonfiction book, award-winning novelist Yiyun Li explores a question we ask ourselves: How does one make life livable?
Startlingly original and shining with quiet wisdom, this is a luminous account of a life lived with books. Written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life is a painful and yet richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living.
Yiyun Li grew up in China and has spent her adult life as an immigrant in a country not her own. She has been a scientist, an author, a mother, a daughter—and through it all she has been sustained by a profound connection with the writers and books she loves. From William Trevor and Katherine Mansfield to Søren Kierkegaard and Philip Larkin, Dear Friend is a journey through the deepest themes that bind these writers together.
Interweaving personal experiences with a wide-ranging homage to her most cherished literary influences, Yiyun Li confronts the two most essential questions of her identity: Why write? And why live? Dear Friend is a beautiful, interior exploration of selfhood and a journey of recovery through literature: a long letter from a writer to like-minded readers.
Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. She has received fellowships and awards from Lannan Foundation and Whiting Foundation. Her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Guardian First Book Award, and California Book Award for first fiction. Her novel, The Vagrants, won the gold medal of California Book Award for fiction, and was shortlisted for Dublin IMPAC Award. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, her second collection, was a finalist of Story Prize and shortlisted for Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages. 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 is a contributing editor to the Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space.
She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons, and teaches at University of California, Davis.
Advance praise for Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life
"In this exquisite, intimate, lyrical memoir, Yiyun Li reveals her life in flashes appended to an arrestingly coherent philosophy of time, self, and place. Uniting the discipline of a scientist with the empathy of a novelist, she scatters profound and often difficult truths through these generous, wise, challenging pages."—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree
"Yiyun Li has written a remarkable account of her literary life, begun in her youth in China with the books that first engaged her in the great conversations of literature. In her own emergence as an important and gifted writer in English she has brought a new voice to that great world. She has also been, in the deepest sense, sustained by it. Her new book is a meditation on the fact that literature itself lives and gives life."—Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead
"Literature, national identity versus the individual self, the clash of public and private, the mysterious nature of relationship, indeed, human nature itself—these subjects and more are explored with remarkable subtlety and rare, limpid mental beauty. A must-read for anyone trying to stay sane in a world that might be perceived as insane."—Mary Gaitskill, author of The Mare
“This extraordinary book is the story of a writer being made and making herself. It is the story of depression coming in waves and being beaten back through love and stubbornness. And also it is one of our finest writers scrutinizing the books that have mattered most to her.”—Akhil Sharma, author of Family Life
“Reading Yiyun Li feels like being inside a mind—a quietly forceful, unrelenting mind. Within the limits of language, which she all but touches, she unfolds an argument with the self. She is suspicious of the very concept of the self, but she does not, ultimately, refuse its possibilities. 'What a long way it is from one life to another,' she writes, while closing that space.”—Eula Biss, author of On Immunity