‘Useful Phrases for Immigrants’ by May-lee Chai wins 2017 Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman


Photo by Jenny Fong

We’re thrilled to announce the latest winner of our Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman: May-lee Chai, for her story collection Useful Phrases for Immigrants!

May-lee is the author of eight previous books and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, among other honors. Her stories, essays, and journalism have appeared in publications such as The Rumpus, Gulf Coast, Entropy, and elsewhere. May-lee was born in California but has lived in fourteen states in the U.S. and four countries. She received her M.F.A. from San Francisco State University.

Useful Phrases for Immigrants was selected from 234 entries. The finalists included Jubilee by Jenn Givhan and Kissing the Indigo Sky by Angela Threatt. The winner was judged by author Tayari Jones. Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where she spent most of her childhood, with the exception of the one year she and her family spent in Nigeria. Although she has not lived in her hometown for more than a decade, much of her writing centers on the urban South. “Although I now live in the northeast,” she explains, “my imagination lives in Atlanta.” Her novels include Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, and Silver Sparrow, all of which have received several awards and accolades, including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction and the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices.

Congratulations to May-lee and all of our Bakwin Award finalists! Carolina Wren Press will publish May-lee’s collection Useful Phrases for Immigrant in 2018.

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