Winnie Li is a Taiwanese-American novelist born and raised in New Jersey. After graduating high school, she attended Harvard University to study folklore and mythology. She later enrolled at the University of Ireland to obtain her masters degree in Anglo-Irish literature. Afterward, Li worked as head of development for a London-based film production company named Left Turn Films. In 2008, she traveled to Ireland for vacation and was taking a walk down Belfast Park when a man suddenly grabbed her. According to Li, he seemed like a cordial person, but after the initial friendly conversation, he sexually assaulted her. The man was 15-year-old Edward Connors. Winnie Li was 26 at the time of the incident.
Li’s assault is a pivotal and heartbreaking moment in her life. Although Connors was sentenced to eight years in prison, the life of his victim would be forever changed. Li compares the pain to a “giant knife [ripping] through my insides and gutting me clean so that I’m a mere shell of who I once was.” Nevertheless, it was this harrowing event that served as inspiration for her debut novel entitled Dark Chapter. It tells the story of Vivian, an American girl who is on vacation in London when she meets a boy named Johnny. Johnny, who was raised in a family in which crime and violence are commonalities, assaults Vivian when the opportunity arises. They both must endure the aftermath of the attack and Li explores the mental processes of both the victim and criminal. It switches perspectives between Johnny and Vivian, allowing for a rounded and complex storyline.
Upon its publication, Dark Chapter received positive reviews for its haunting portrayal of rape and assault. It garnered a great deal of media coverage, including spreads in the Daily Mail, London Live, BBC World Service, and Metro. Publishers Weekly praises Li for doing “a fine job exploring how one incident can change the course of a life in this astute psychological study.”