Monday, August 6, 2018

Lillian Li

Lillian Li's work has been published in Guernica, Granta, Glimmer Train, Bon Appetit, and Jezebel. Originally from the D.C. metro area, she lives in Ann Arbor.

Li's new novel is Number One Chinese Restaurant.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Number One Chinese Restaurant?

A: Whenever I start to talk about writing Number One Chinese Restaurant, I find I always begin with the summer before I wrote the novel, which was the summer I was a waitress at a Chinese restaurant.

When most people hear this, they assume I must have known I wanted to write about the restaurant before I started working there, but that wasn’t the case. I just wanted to make some money before grad school. The fact that the restaurant was a Chinese one was a complete accident.

I didn’t realize at the time that I could get a waitressing job by strolling into an Applebee’s and asking if they were hiring; my mom ended up finding the job through the classified section of the local Chinese newspaper.

As soon as I was hired I realized it was going to be an…awkward fit. For one, I was younger than all the other waiters by at least two decades, though most were in their 50s and 60s.

I was also the only American-born Chinese—everyone else had emigrated from China—and English was my first language while it was their second, third, sometimes fourth language.

But most importantly and egregiously of all, I ...[read on]
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--Marshal Zeringue