Carmel Valley author shares her story of triumph over adversity

Li-Ying Lundquist
Li-Ying Lundquist
(Julia Badei)

In Carmel Valley resident Li-Ying Lundquist’s book “Wings of Silk”, the protagonist leaves communist China and arrives in New York City on a student visa.

She was invited to live with her aunt and family in Manhattan, but after several weeks, they inexplicably kick her out and she finds herself a refugee on the streets.

Thanks to the help of some relatives and friends, the narrator, Ying-Ying, survives. She faces numerous traumatic experiences. Yet, she perseveres and goes on to achieve a successful career as an engineer, wife and mother and experiences a spiritual transformation.

Aside from some changes to the names of places and people, “Wings of Silk” is essentially a novel based on a true story.

Lundquist is scheduled to read from and discuss her book as well as sign copies from noon to 3:30 p.m., Sept. 24, at Barnes & Noble, 1040 N. El Camino Real Drive, Encinitas.

Other scheduled appearances are from 1 to 3 p.m., Oct. 1, at Carmel Valley Library, 3919 Townsgate Drive, San Diego, and 2 to 4 p.m., Oct. 22, at Del Mar Library, 1309 Camino Del Mar.

The cover of “Wings of Silk”
The cover of “Wings of Silk”

“Wings of Silk” was released 10 months ago by Acorn Publishing LLC, which was co-founded by Carmel Valley resident and novelist Holly Kammier along with Irvine resident and author Jessica Therrien.

Lundquist said she met Kammier through the latter’s involvement in real estate and they are longtime friends and neighbors. Kammier, who calls Lundquist by her adopted English name of Eileen, was awed by Lundquist’s account of her life. Kammier credited her friend with helping her through her own problems.

Lundquist said: “Right from the beginning, Holly said, ‘Oh my gosh, Eileen, you have to write about your story. It’s so powerful. She said, ‘Think about that. If your story helped me through my most difficult times, think about how many other people you can help.’ ... I said no. I turned her down all the time. ...

“Then, a few years ago she approached me again. She said, ‘Well, I have my own publishing company now. There’s no excuse for you not to write because you know it’s going to be published.’”

Around that time, Lundquist said, she suffered a life-threatening illness during which she came to the realization that writing her story was a priority.

Kammier said she was moved by Lundquist’s history of overcoming adversity.

“When I went through some very difficult challenges in my life, I continued to remind myself of all that Eileen had faced and overcome,” Kammier said.

“I told myself if she could find a way to thrive under such difficult circumstances, I too could survive,” Kammier said in an email. “She was and is a big inspiration in my life. I believe that anyone who reads her book has the opportunity to also be inspired to become an even more fulfilled person who dares to go after their dreams.”

A native of Beijing, Lundquist said she had dreamt of being a writer since she was a young girl.

Born in 1962, Lundquist was still a child when Mao Zedong ruled mainland China. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution launched in the late 1960s, Lundquist’s parents were rounded up by authorities and sent to a labor camp for a transformation process to make them worship and praise Mao and therefore become Mao’s lifelong loyal follower.

Lundquist incorporates this episode and many other personal experiences into “Wings of Silk.” The title comes from a New Year’s gift of a butterfly kite made of silk that was presented to her by her parents. The kite serves as a metaphor for Ying-Ying’s quest to rise above the many challenges that confront her.

Though Lundquist said she had entertained the idea of writing about her life, she was inhibited by fear on one hand and self-doubt on the other.

“In China, there wasn’t any freedom of speech,” she said. “Whatever you write is really dangerous. They can put you in jail. My dad was a literature professor and he’s a writer himself. He just said there is no future for writers. He steered me toward more of the science fields — math and physics and things like that.”

Still, she entertained the possibility of putting her life’s journey into words.

“I’ve always wanted to write and I really wanted to write about my experiences,” she said. “But then because of my lack of self-worth and self-esteem, I thought, ‘Who would want to read about my boring story. Why would I tell strangers about all this dirty laundry. ... I felt my life was not worth that much to talk about anyway.”

Thanks to the prodding of Kammier and a friend who agreed to be her editor, Lundquist began writing a memoir, a project she pursued more vigorously during the pandemic shutdown.

Eventually, Lundquist transformed the narrative into a semi-fictionalized autobiography to avoid some potentially awkward situations.

Lundquist said she underwent counseling to deal with her fears about publishing her story.

“I do feel good about it,” she said, referring to the feedback she has received.

“I didn’t expect the impact to be like this. People can resonate along with my story. Because they read my story, they don’t feel shameful any more.”

The book is available on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. Readers’ comments have been nearly universally in praise of “Wings of Silk,” which is averaging a 5-star rating on Amazon. More information is available at

A strong motivation for Lundquist to share her story was her discovery of the redemptive message of Christianity, which she experienced one day at a conference and incorporates into the book through the eyes of Ying-Ying.

“I wanted to write about it because I wanted to show that through forgiveness, we can have a new life,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what has been done to us and what kind of mistakes we’ve made. Through the power of forgiveness we can have a new life and still be happy.

“There’s another point that I wanted to write — to introduce the Chinese culture a little bit (to readers) and (show) how I grew up and what I grew up with.”

Kammier said getting “Wings of Silk” in print and before the eyes of readers confirms her belief that Lundquist’s chronicle of tribulation and ultimately triumph is a compelling narrative that can help others cope with their own difficulties in life.

“I encouraged her to share her experiences because I believe in the power of stories to shape a better world,” Kammier said. “I knew her story could help others.

“I also wanted her story preserved for her family. Her children, grandchildren, and her great grandchildren deserve to know that they came from a beautiful, strong, and immensely kind and resilient woman.”