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A childhood memory that my sister and I shared, though from slightly different angles, was a lost two-yuan bill. She was seven, and I was three, and on this summer day she was in charge of taking care of me and buying two yuan worth of pork, which, in 1976, would count as half of our monthly meat ration.
The waiting line at the meat counter was long. I was hot, and bored, and made a fuss to hold the bill for my sister while she struggled not to lose the ration book, or me, or her position in the line. She had me promise not to let the money go from my grasp many times before putting it in my hand; I walked in and out of the line, holding the money tightly, but the next thing I knew, when I looked again the money was gone from my hand, and in its place I had a piece of scrap paper.
My sister received a memorable beating for the lost bill from our mother. I received no such punishment, but had my first experience of remorse. For days after I would try to revise my memory: that I had not asked for the money; that I had held it so securely that it had not been replaced. But remorse, like my sister's pains from the beating or from being the less favored daughter, takes its course to become less engrossing, so the episode becomes a joke between us, standing in for all the things we can and cannot possibly laugh about. What I find more fascinating, though, is how the money was replaced: my parents believed that I dropped the money and picked up something else in its place; I, however, knowing even then the significance of two-yuan bill, believed that I had not let the money go until someone, not by force but by guile, got the money out of my hand and repaid me with the scrap paper. Either possibility would make sense; either could make a story with a happy ending: the one who deceived a small child and the one who spotted a lost bill could both, at the end of the day, celebrate their good fortune.
All the stories in Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, like the episode with the lost money, came from situations--both Chinese and American--that could lead to different stories. The versions I chose to tell, I hope, have neither villains nor victims in them but people who have both taken from others and have been taken from, who have both deceived and been deceived, and who are as lonely as you and I.
©2010 by Yiyun Li
The writing was excellent, but I found the stories depressing. I don't want stories to be sugary, but I enjoy a little lightness or a peak at a happy moment.Published 4 months ago by MaryLou
Every story in this masterful collection is pretty freaking depressing. They are all love stories, but they're also about loneliness, loss, and growing older. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Melissa Niksic
Beautifully written stories. I gave a copy to a dear friend who mentored me through grad school and he loved it, too. Read morePublished 24 months ago by sopranomom
Excellent read. Stories one can relate to. It seems like the stories come from long ago and yet are contemporary in their content. Read morePublished on May 11, 2012 by seinjong
I really enjoyed the book, "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl". I don't usually read short stories, but I bought this for my book club. The book was sad and haunting, melancholy. Read morePublished on April 21, 2012 by Dawn
Excellent collection of short stories. All will leave you wanting more. Thoughtful and smart stories. A very enoyable and quick read.Published on February 27, 2012 by TAP
After reading a profile of the author in a university alumni magazine my interest was piqued and so I selected her most recent collection of short stories. Read morePublished on February 14, 2012 by A reader
The first story, `Kindness', is about a young girl serving her required army stint the year before starting college. Read morePublished on November 5, 2011 by Cynthia
I've been doing a lot of short story reading lately. I've become fairly familiar with them as a result, but I'll tell you this - this collection was unlike anything I've read... Read morePublished on November 2, 2011 by Lydia