Princeton University Scholar Earns the 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award

Yiyun Li, professor of creative writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University in New Jersey, has received the 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award for her novel Where Reasons End (Random House, 2019).

The award is given to the author of a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, and that has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence.

The award committee judges stated: “In this spare, haunting, deeply humane novel, Yiyun Li bends the conventions of narrative to accommodate an extremity of experience that’s often beyond representation. In these posthumous conversations between a mother and the young son she recently lost to suicide, what might have been an unremittingly desolate book instead bristles with humor and playfulness, and achieves finally a profound reconciliation. Li has written a novel unlike anything we have read before.”

Recently, the novel was named among the five finalists for the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Professor Li was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2010. She is a graduate of Peking University in China. She holds a master’s degree in immunology and a master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa.

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