The cover of Yiyun Li’s Gold Boy, Emerald Girl oddly makes me feel nostalgic. Maybe, I do miss stepping on fallen gingko leaves…. The stories included in this collection are all focalized through female characters who are middle-aged or elderly. Lately, I have been obsessed with auntie and grandma figures who populate Asian American literature. So, Li’s short story collection definitely piqued my interest in that regard.
Titles of the stories included in this collection are minimalistic like the lives of the characters they reflect: Kindness; A Man Like Him; Prison; The Proprietess; House Fire; Number Three, Garden Road; Sweeping Past; Souvenir; Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. While the stories are not connected in terms of characters and plot, metaphors and imagery do migrate from one story to the next. I especially liked the link between “Prison” and the “The Proprietess,” though I won’t elaborate on it here. These two stories seem to ask us, what does freedom mean for each of us? Also, are we ever truly free?
The opening story of novella length, “Kindness,” was a slow burner for me. If I were in the protagonist’s shoes, I would not have been able to find happiness in such solitude. But, the novella left me wondering about this cruelly optimistic world we live for a long time and the random acts of kindness that make us endure.
Update: Earlier, I said that I miss gingko leaves and… I got my wish!