“When you write in your second language, you bypass a lot of history with the language,” says Yiyun Li, a writer and professor who was named one of 23 new MacArthur Fellows on Tuesday. “And I feel more liberated writing in English than in Chinese.”
Born in Beijing, Li came to the United States in 1996 to complete a doctoral program in immunology, but decided then to change her career path and instead do something that was more important to her.
“I knew…that I could be a good scientist, but I loved writing more than science. So somehow I thought I would just pursue my dream.”
The author of “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” and “The Vagrants,” her latest work is a short story collection called “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl.”
I talked with Yiyun Li today by phone:
Editor’s Note: You can read more about this year’s MacArthur Fellows here. A full transcript will be posted shortly.