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Best Award-Winning East Bay Author: An enviable autodidact 

Yiyun Li

She claims to have taught herself to write, though surely Mills College assistant professor Yiyun Li got a bit of help during her stint at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she earned her MFA after coming stateside from Beijing in 1996. It paid off when she won 50,000 euros (around $60,000) last fall as the recipient of 2005's Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award -- the world's highest-paying prize for a collection of short stories. The Oakland resident's book A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (Random House, $21.95) proffers further proof that life under a totalitarian government is harsh, especially when it overlays centuries of crushing social stigmas: In one tale, a couple hides their disabled daughter from the neighbors for 28 years, out of fear and shame; in others, hope and faith and budding love are cauterized by secrets and lies. Subsequently, the book also scooped the 2006 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a debut fiction work, which amounts to $8,000 plus two fellowship gigs. All those authors whose own hope and faith produced books that plummeted instantly into obscurity can start simmering with envy now on three, two, one ...
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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