The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, 2016

S. Li

Transoceanic Lights

(Harvard Square Editions)
ISBN-13: 978-1941861998

Selected by Karen Bender


S. Li was born in Guangzhou, China in 1984 and moved to the US in 1989. He graduated with an A.B. in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard in 2006 and an M.D. from the University of Massachusetts in 2010. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

About the book

Transoceanic Lights tells of three families who immigrate to the US from post-Mao China. The unnamed narrator’s overbearing mother is plagued with regret as financial burdens and lack of trust begin to rend apart her marriage. Her only solace lies in the distant promise of better lives for her children. Yet her son spends his days longing for the comfort and familiarity of his homeland, while his two cousins, one precocious and the other rambunctious, seem to assimilate effortlessly. Transoceanic Lights explores familial love and discord, the strains of displacement, and the elusive nature of the American Dream.

Suggested Link

- VIDEO: S. Li reading from Transoceanic Lights

Get the Book:


- Barnes & Noble


- WorldCat (Library catalog)

About the Selecting author

Karen Bender’s short story collection Refund was a finalist for the National Book Award, shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Story Prize, and longlisted for the Story Prize. She is the author of the novels A Town of Empty Rooms and Like Normal People. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, PloughsharesStoryThe Harvard Review, The Iowa ReviewGuernica, and other magazines. Her stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, and have won two Pushcart prizes.