First, I’ll be honest and admit that the number of Chinese authors I’ve read works by is minimal. In fact, it’s like… zero. Which is a total shame, and one I intend to remedy.
Second, I read this book in a way I’ve never read a book before — I checked it out from the Chicago Public Library in e-book form to read on my Kindle. Thank goodness libraries are getting into the digital book game. Downloading the book was super easy, and I had 21 days to finish reading it.
“Gold Boy, Emerald Girl” is the Spring 2012 One Book, One Chicago selection, which is why I read it. It’s always interesting to me to see which books are selected by this program, and this one is stellar. (As are most of their selections, though based on the Fall 2012 selection I don’t think I’m a Saul Bellow fan. Oh well.)
In this collection of nine very modern short stories about ordinary, everyday Chinese folk, the lines between tradition and contemporary society are examined. Li writes delicately, but without extraneous language and detail as she quickly tells the story of a young woman in the army, a detective agency made up of elderly women, a man and a woman on an arranged date, a frustrated artist who becomes obsessed with a young woman’s blog about her adulterer father, and some others. None of these experiences are strictly Chinese — they could, with a few minor adjustments, happen to anyone in any country.
I’m glad I read the book for many reasons — Really, it’s just a good read — but most importantly for the story called “Prison.” This tale, about a middle-aged woman who hires a young surrogate to carry her new baby after the death of a previous child, wrecked me. Maybe it’s because I’m a new mom, but this story is going to stay with me for a long, long time. I find myself growing upset at tales of missing or lost children, and “Prison” plays on a mother’s sympathies, Chinese or not.
Yiyun Li’s book is the focus of many programs around Chicago this spring. Check out the 1B1C link above to get in on the action.
And remember – with a Chicago Public Library card, you can read this one for free!
The Chicago Public Library’s awesome One Book One Chicago program announced their Spring 2012 selection moments ago — “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl” by Yiyun Li.
From Mayor Emanuel’s welcome letter -
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl includes nine expertly written short stories set in modern China. Through Yiyun Li’s unforgettable characters, we learn about a country and a people who are not so different from us. Li’s stories—whether about a young girl navigating life in the army or a group of widows who start a private investigation agency—offer a rich and varied portrait of China, and will resonate with Chicago’s readers.
Of course, to go along with this announcement, there’s also a complete list of events. In addition to the usual discussion group, there are also a few special events – such as a walking tour of Chinatown, events at the Chinese-American Museum, film screenings, and an evening of Chinese music. The author herself will also be on hand for a lecture at Harold Washington Library on 4/19.
I’m always excited when 1B1C announces their new selection, and look forward to reading this one – as well as attending some events.
(I think it’s time my son visits Chinatown, don’t you?)
Visit the Chicago Public Libraries to check out the book, or – if you’re planning to purchase it – remember to Shop Indie.
Saul Bellow’s “The Adventures of Augie March” was announced yesterday as the Fall 2011 One Book, One Chicago selection.
There’s already a great list of events and discussions about the book up on the site, as well as a letter from Chicago’s new Mayor.
As Mayor and on behalf of the City of Chicago, I encourage you to celebrate a decade of the award-winning One Book, One Chicago program by taking part in its 10th anniversary celebration this fall. In September and October, we will acknowledge this landmark and come together around the great Chicago novel The Adventures of Augie March by Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow.
Since its launch in fall 2001, One Book, One Chicago has engaged and challenged readers in Chicago with more than 20 book selections, hundreds of programs and discussions, and countless memorable encounters among readers. Twice a year, we see our fellow Chicagoans reading the same book on buses or trains, in parks or cafes, on campuses and in libraries. Lectures, author appearances, performances and more bring people together to immerse themselves in a great book, and to learn more about themselves and each other in the process.
What better way to celebrate this program, itself such a testament to Chicago’s dedication to reading and learning, than to read such an iconic Chicago book? Saul Bellow is a Chicago legend, and in Augie March he created a true son of Chicago. Along with his two brothers, Augie is raised by his mother in the 1920s and ’30s; but he is shaped just as much by the movement and struggles of the city around him. He travels between jobs, mentors, neighborhoods and friends, and throughout it all we see him, and his city, so clearly.
Join the Chicago Public Library this fall by reading The Adventures of Augie March. Take part in a discussion at your local library or attend any number of programs or performances. Stop by your local library or visit the website to learn more.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
After great experiences with this program over the last two selections, I’m looking forward to taking part in this go-round!