Li, Leslie 1945–
Li, Leslie 1945–
ADDRESSES: Home and office—P.O. Box 684, Saxtons River, VT 05154. E-mail—[email protected]
MEMBER: International Women's Writing Guild, Authors Guild, National Writers Union.
AWARDS, HONORS: Leo Maitland fellowship, Millay Colony for the Arts, 1992; Cottages at Hedgebrook residency, 1994; Freeman Foundation grant, 1998; Tennessee Williams scholarship in fiction, Sewanee Writers' Conference, 1999.
Bittersweet (novel), Charles E. Tuttle (Boston, MA), 1992.
(With others) Enter the Dragon (book of children's plays), Main Street Arts Press, 2002.
Daughter of Heaven: A Memoir with Earthly Recipes, Arcade Publishing (New York, NY), 2005.
Work represented in anthologies, including American Voices, edited by Jay Parini and Bob Pack, University Press of NewEngland (Lebanon, NH), 1994; contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Gourmet, Travel and Leisure, Writers' Digest, Garden Design, Health, Modern Maturity, International Herald Tribune, Condé Nast Traveler, and Saveur.
SIDELIGHTS: Leslie Li is the author of Bittersweet, a novel set in twentieth-century China. Bittersweet, the heroine of the novel, is based on Li's grandmother, who was the wife of China's democratically elected president of the late 1940s. Born in 1889, a time when women were held in particularly low regard in China, Bittersweet is reviled by her father, who sees her as a social stigma and, moreover, a financial burden. She eventually proves otherwise, even arranging her own marriage at age nineteen to a promising soldier, Delin. Delin's family prizes Bittersweet, and they provide her with the education and guidance she lacked under her father's authority. Bittersweet prospers further when her husband is named China's vice president by the country's leader, Chiang Kai-shek. But her domestic situation soon grows troublesome. Her husband takes a second wife and, in effect, abandons Bittersweet. That abandonment, in turn, leads to increased difficulties for the heroine.
Since its publication in 1992, Bittersweet has won praise as an impressive, accomplished novel. Gail Tsukiyama, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, proclaimed Li's novel "informative and interesting" and declared that it is "well worth reading." Another reviewer, Abigail Davis, affirmed in the Bloomsbury Review that Bittersweet "provides a compacted history lesson," and she hailed the novel as "a very expansive and valuable work." A New Yorker critic deemed Bittersweet "a fascinating book."
Li, the daughter of Chinese and Polish parents, was born in the Bronx, NY. In Daughter of Heaven: A Memoir with Earthly Recipes, she weaves the tale of her childhood around eighteen Chinese recipes, including the symbolism of many and their relevance to holidays and festivals. Until Nai-nai (Li's grandmother) came to live with her family, Li's cuisine reflected what Americans in suburbia were eating in the 1950s. Her grandmother reinstated their Chinese heritage through traditional dishes that Li came to love. Li traveled to China twice, once alone, and in 1990 to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of Nai-nai, who was then living in Guilin in comfort because she had been the wife of an honored leader. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that "the book is more than satisfying, and the mythical ending … is haunting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Li, Leslie, Daughter of Heaven: A Memoir with Earthly Recipes, Arcade Publishing (New York, NY), 2005.
Bloomsbury Review, January-February, 1993, Abigail Davis, review of Bittersweet.
Booklist, April 15, 2005, Barbara Jacobs, review of Daughter of Heaven, p. 1424.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2005, review of Daughter of Heaven, p. 276.
New Yorker, December 7, 1992, review of Bittersweet.
New York Times Book Review, November 22, 1992, review of Bittersweet.
Philadelphia Inquirer, July 5, 2005, Dianne Marder, review of Daughter of Heaven.
Publishers Weekly, August 10, 1992, review of Bittersweet, p. 52; March 28, 2005, review of Daughter of Heaven, p. 65.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 1, 1992, Gail Tsukiyama, review of Bittersweet.
Leslie Li Home Page, http://www.sover.net/∼leslieli (October 16, 2006).