Life sucks for eunuchs, and the disenfranchised ponder stocks, Christ, and grains of rice in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, the gripping short-story collection that has brought several hundred thousand good dollars to its author, Mills College creative-writing assistant professor Yiyun Li. A brilliant math student in her native Beijing, she came to study immunology in Iowa in 1996 struggling to learn English with the help of cassettes. Ten years later, she was writing in it so well that A Thousand Years of Good Prayers has at last count netted her a $40,000 Whiting Writers Award, the £10,000 Guardian First Book Award, an $8,000 PEN/Hemingway Award, and the brand-new E50,000 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, which is now the world's richest short-story prize. (It also was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.) This was on top of a $200,000 two-book contract from Random House. Married with two children, Oakland resident Li was turned down once for permanent residency by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, then denied on appeal last year. She has filed again.