Yiyun Li Quotes
“Life can be reset, it seems to say; time can be separated. But that logic appears to me as unlikely as traveling to another place to become a different person. Altered sceneries are at best distractions, or else new settings for old habits. What one carries from one point to another, geographically or temporally, is one’s self. Even the most inconsistent person is consistently himself.”
“Isolation, I was reminded again and again, is a danger. But what if one's real context is in books? Some days, going from one book to another, preoccupied with thoughts that were of no importance, I would feel a rare moment of serenity: all that could not be solved in my life was merely a trifle as long as I kept it at a distance. Between that suspended life and myself were these dead people and imagined characters. One could spend one's days among them as a child arranges a circle of stuffed animals when the darkness of night closes in.”
“After the second of two hospital stays following a difficult time, I went to a program for those whose lives have fallen apart. Often someone would say—weeping, shaking, or dry eyed—that he or she wished to go back in time and make everything right again. I wished, too, that life could be reset, but reset from when? From each point I could go to an earlier point: warning signs neglected, mistakes aggregated, but it was useless to do so, as I often ended up with the violent wish that I had never been born. I was quiet most of the time, until I was told I was evasive and not making progress. But my pain was my private matter, I thought; if I could understand and articulate my problems I wouldn’t have been there in the first place. Do you want to share anything, I was prompted when I had little to offer. By then I felt my hope had run out. I saw the revolving door admitting new people and letting old people out into the world; similar stories were told with the same remorse and despair; the lectures were on the third repeat. What if I were stuck forever in that basement room? I broke down and could feel a collective sigh: my tears seemed to prove that finally I intended to cooperate. I had only wanted to stay invisible, but there as elsewhere invisibility is a luxury.”
“It saddened her that Luo insisted on holding on to her as if they had started to share some vital organs during their twenty years of marriage. She wondered if this was a sign of old age, of losing hope and the courage for changes. She herself could easily picture vanishing from their shared life, but then perhaps it was a sign of aging on her part, a desire for loneliness that would eventually make death a relief.”
“Sometimes I imagine that writing is a survey I carry out, asking everyone I encounter, in reality or in fiction: How much of your life is lived to be known by others? To be understood? How much of your life is lived to know and understand others? But like all surveys the questions are simplifications. How much does one trust others to be known, to be understood; how much does one believe in the possibilities of one person’s knowing and understanding another.”
- Date of birth: January 01, 1972
- Born: in Beijing, China.
- Description: Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing, China and moved to the United States in 1996. She received an MFA from Iowa Writers' Workshop and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. Her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review,and elsewhere. She has received a Whiting Writers' Award and was awarded a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, TX. 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. She was recently selected as one of Granta's 21 Best of Young American Novelists. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons, and teaches at University of California, Davis.