By Yiyun Li
240 pages; Random House
The tales in Yiyun Li's second collection often take on the otherworldliness of myth, in a country where "big tragedies and small losses [can] all be part of a timeless dream." But what makes Gold Boy, Emerald Girl fascinating is the conflict between traditional and modern-day China. In the wrenching "Prison," for example, a Chinese-born woman, still grieving her daughter's death, goes home to hire a surrogate to provide her a second chance at motherhood. When reading Li's deceptively simple writing, you appreciate the subtle sociopolitical commentary, but her characters' vivid interior worlds—full of loss and hard-won wisdom—lift smart subject matter into masterful storytelling.