S. Li reads from Transoceanic Lights (Harvard Square Editions)

Transoceanic Lights

2016 National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35 Award’ Winner

Leapfrog Fiction Contest Semifinalist

Asheville Award Finalist

Willow Books Literature Award Finalist

Transoceanic Lights chronicles the hardships of a Chinese family after immigrating to the US. The overbearing mother must reconcile the immensity of her sacrifice in the midst of a deteriorating marriage. Her only solace is the distant promise of a better life for her son, who spends his days in school longing for the comfort of his homeland. This is a novel about familial love and discord, the strains of displacement, and the elusive nature of the American Dream.

“Here they come, fresh off the flight from China: The father, Ba, the mother, Ma, and their only child, unnamed; we’ll call him Son. Son is 5, the same age the Chinese-American author was on his arrival in the U.S.; the novel has a strong autobiographical flavor.”


“Transoceanic Lights is perhaps the biggest surprise on the ‘5 Under 35’ list, and it’s the only book published by a small press. It follows a family of Chinese immigrants struggling to adjust to life in the U.S. The story line parallels Li’s own history: H left China when he was five. Li earned a medical degree before publishing his first novel, putting him in the ranks of many other doctors-turned-writers, including Abraham Verghese and Ethan Canin.”

—MPR News

“Ma’s childbirth scene is a killer. The full account . . . should be enough to make any of us swear off having sex, much less fabricating babies, forever and forever, amen.”

—The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities

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