American Author Yiyun Li Wins World's Richest Short Story Prize

Posted on April 27, 2015

Yiyun Li author photo

American author and professor Yiyun Li has won the world's richest short story prize with her compelling story "A Sheltered Woman." The Sunday Times Short Story Prize carries a cash prize of 30,000 pounds sterling, or approximately $45,680.

"The Sheltered Woman" was originally published in The New Yorker in March of 2014. The short story tells the tale of Auntie Mei, a Chinese "first month nanny" who works for affluent Chinese Americans to ensure that the first month of life is carried out with proper Chinese traditions.

Auntie Mei works for a couple in which the very young mother is wildly unsuited for motherhood. The mother, Chanel, says she suffers from postpartum depression, but Aunt Mei is dismissive of her claims. Chanel says the only married an older man to spite her own father and has zero interest in being a mother. As the story unfolds the reader learns that Auntie Mei has given 131 babies an excellent start in life. But she always refuses to stay past the first month. We eventually get insight into how Mei came to be the woman she is.

This year's judges were critic Alex Clark, novelist and short story writer Aminatta Forna, director and producer Sir Richard Eyre, novelist Elif Shafak and the Literary Editor of The Sunday times, Andrew Holgate.

Yiyun Li was born in Beijing and moved to the U.S. in 1996. She became an American citizen in 2012. In an interview with Asian Fortune she noted that English is her second language, but she says it is the first language in which she wrote fiction. She says that she prefers to write fiction in English.

Her first published collection of short stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She teaches at the University of California, Davis.

Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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