Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in your Life

Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in your Life

Unknown - 2017 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:
In her first memoir, award-winning novelist Yiyun Li offers a journey of recovery through literature: a letter from a writer to like-minded readers.

"A meditation on the fact that literature itself lives and gives life."--Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead

"What a long way it is from one life to another, yet why write if not for that distance?"

Startlingly original and shining with quiet wisdom, this is a luminous account of a life lived with books. Written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life is a painful and yet richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living.

Yiyun Li grew up in China and has spent her adult life as an immigrant in a country not her own. She has been a scientist, an author, a mother, a daughter--and through it all she has been sustained by a profound connection with the writers and books she loves. From William Trevor and Katherine Mansfield to S#65533;ren Kierkegaard and Philip Larkin, Dear Friend is a journey through the deepest themes that bind these writers together.

Interweaving personal experiences with a wide-ranging homage to her most cherished literary influences, Yiyun Li confronts the two most essential questions of her identity: Why write? And why live?

Praise for Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life

"Li has stared in the face of much that is beautiful and ugly and treacherous and illuminating--and from her experience she has produced a nourishing exploration of the will to live willfully." -- The Washington Post

"Li's transformation into a writer . . . is nothing short of astonishing.'" -- The New York Times Book Review

"An arrestingly lucid, intellectually vital series of contemplations on art, identity, and depression." --The Boston Globe

"Li is an exemplary storyteller and this account of her journey back to equilibrium, assisted by her closest companion, literature, is as powerful as any of her award-winning fiction, with the dark fixture of her Beijing past at its centre." -- Financial Times

"Every writer is a reader first, and Dear Friend is Li's haunted, luminous love letter to the words that shaped her. . . . Her own prose is both lovely and opaque, fitfully illuminating a radiant landscape of the personal and profound." -- Entertainment Weekly

"Yiyun Li's prose is lean and intense, and her ideas about books and writing are wholly original." -- San Francisco Chronicle
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780399589096
Branch Call Number: 813.6 Li
Characteristics: 208 pages ; 22 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Quote

Feb 16, 2018

"Living is not an original business."

Sep 14, 2017

One hides something for two reasons: either one feels protective of it or one feels ashamed of it. And it is not always the case that the two possibilities can be separated.


Add a Comment

Feb 16, 2018

When reading Yiyun Li's "Dear Friends..." I could not help but compare it unfavorably to Helen Macdonald's all together more engaging memoir, "H is for Hawk." Though each book is a very personal statement, they do share some distinct similarities. First, each book was written over a period of dark reflection for each writer, Li laid low by a lingering suicidal depression and MacDonald devastated by the sudden and unexpected death of her father. Second, each writer found solace and insight in reading and practicing her writing craft. Finally, both books explored the lives of other authors with the intense interest that only a writer can bring, plumbing their depths for insights, comfort, or reflection.

Like many other reviewers, I really wanted to enjoy Li's work, especially as she had made two leaps of amazing bravery in her life that aroused my curiosity: first, moving from communist China to the United States in her twenties, and second, her decision to leave her stable profession as an immunologist to throw herself fully into an uncertain career as a novelist writing solely in her new language, English.

With so much to work with, I am sad to report that Li's effort is only intermittently engaging and too vaguely organized to really be compelling. Whereas MacDonald's work is linear and well paced, Li's is vague and meandering. Where MacDonald moves from intellectual to emotionally engaging writing with ease, Li struggles with creating much warmth in her work, impeding any sense of building a relationship with the reader. Finally, where MacDonald plumbs the lives of a select few authors for rich insight, Li tries to cover too many authors without much depth. I left MacDonald’s exploration with a clear sense of satisfaction, I finished Li’s with more than a tinge of annoyance at having to work so hard to gain so little.

Perhaps I am too harsh on Li. I did find that I learned more than a little about her, not only by what she shared, but also in the clear difficulty she had in focusing on herself. The book also has some very bracing and intelligent passages early on that I can easily imagine returning to and reflecting on. The brief glimpses we do get into her life are enticing and she illustrates so well the comfort and solace that readers can find in books. Perhaps a person who shares Li’s enthusiasm for the authors Catherine Mansfield, Philip Larkin, James Allen McPherson, Breece D’J Pancake, Stefan Zweig, John McGahern, and William Trevor will also find extra interest where I did not.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

Feb 16, 2018

MelissaBee thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings

No similar edition of this title was found at VPL.

Try searching for Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in your Life to see if VPL owns related versions of the work.

Suggest for Purchase

To Top