Growing up in Beijing in the 1970s, Yiyun Li used to sit on the public staircase of the Soviet-style brick apartment complex where her family lived — and listen.
“People did not think children were human beings. You could sit there all day long and they would not see you. They would talk about all these fascinating things — secrets, gossip — not realizing I was absorbing everything as a sponge. I think some of my earlier stories might have come from listening to grownups talking about things.”Yiyun Li
Li, who joined the Princeton faculty in 2017 as a professor of creative writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts, didn’t always think of herself as a writer. After earning a bachelor’s in cell biology from Peking University in Beijing, she came to the United States to study immunology at the University of Iowa. After taking a writing class, she switched her focus, earning an M.F.A. in fiction writing and an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction.