Can Xue was born in 1953 in Changsha City, in Hunan province. Her parents were sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, and she graduated only from elementary school. She learned English on her own and ended up writing books on Borges, Shakespeare, and Dante. Other books by Can Xue published in the U.S. include: Five Spice Street (Yale University Press, 2009), The Embroidered Shoes (Henry Holt, 1997), Old Floating Cloud (Northwestern University Press, 1991), and Dialogues in Paradise (Northwestern University Press, 1989). Her work has been translated worldwide.