Gold Boy, Emerald Girl a collection of short stories by Yiyun Li, on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. RAO students---who had been reading the story “House Fire” from the collection, joined with Jan’s GED class who had read the title story. What happened when these readers and talkers came together was a lively conversation about Li’s characters, who were described as “lonely”, “casual”, and “shy”. We talked about cultural attitudes toward marriage, and what qualifies someone to be the “head of the household.” Because many of the stories in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl deal with inter-generational relationships, we mused about how a young writer is able to capture the moods and attitudes of older folk. Book discussion participants had a lot to say about things they have learned from observing, listening-to, and being raised by their elders. This list includes: “advice”, “religion”, “how to curse & be crooked”, “history lessons” and “integrity and values.”
The following evening, April 19, 2012 RAO members enjoyed an hour-long conversation between writers Achy Obejas and Yiyun Li at the Harold Washington Library Center. During this intriguing exchange we learned that Li’s stories begin with her curiosity about other people’s lives and her need to uncover their secrets. Having originally pursued studies in Immunology, Li shared that her parents did not approve of reading fictional stories, nor did they approve of her writing career.
Audience members laughed when YiYun Li shared the story of how she permitted her son to drop out of traditional Chinese school after only one class: “I’m not a‘tiger-mom’, but a ‘Chinese-chicken-mom’,” she said, “And my children are ‘free-range’ chickens!”