Author Yiyun Li wins MacArthur 'genius grant'

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Announced September 28, Beijing-born novelist Yiyun Li won a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship, a $500,000 (370,000 euros) prize paid out in five years. A previous winner of the Frank O'Connor Short Story Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, she is the author of the 2010 short-story collection Gold Boy, Emerald Girl.

The MacArthur Fellowships - a no-strings-attached prize often dubbed as a "genius grant" - are awarded to US citizens or residents "who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits" in all fields. This year's fellows include 22 others, including an oceanographer, a sculptor, an animator, a theater director, a linguist, and a molecular biologist. David Simon, the Emmy Award-winning producer of the HBO series The Wire, also claimed the prize. Li is the only literary writer to receive the award this year.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the 37-year-old Li - a teacher at the University of California at Davis - said that winning the grant means that she would have more time to write. "At this moment, I have two children and I teach full time," she said, adding that she expects her future to be "a little bit less teaching, a little more time to focus on writing."

Earlier this year, Li was named one of The New Yorker magazine's "20 Under 40," a list of up-and-coming fiction writers to watch. 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 the California Book Award for first fiction. Her latest book, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, was released on September 14.

Previous MacArthur Fellows include writers Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Edwidge Danticat, David Foster Wallace, and George Saunders.

To read Li's short story "The Science of Flight, which appeared in the August 30, 2010, issue of The New Yorker: