Short story: “Extra”

by look i have opinions

“Extra,” by Yiyun Li

Appeared in the December 22, 2003 New Yorker (subscribers can read here) and the December 17, 2010 Guardian short stories podcast (listen here or read an excerpt); collected in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

Around 7,000 words (this one is a wild guess, since I don’t have a copy)

A quiet, ordinary, heartbreaking story. There’s a constant sense that all the major characters are “extras,” people no one cares about, people who have no place in the world. Granny Lin twice tries to reach out to the other extras in the world, and both times her efforts backfire, leaving her alone and disgraced. She’s the kind of person who can be completely contented if she has work to do and someone to love, and she can’t hold onto even those.