May 19, 2022

Creative Writing Professor Yiyun Li Wins the 2022 PEN/Malamud Award

Yiyun Li, professor in Princeton University’s Program in Creative Writing, has received the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Given by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation since 1988 in honor of the late Bernard Malamud, the award recognizes writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form.

“It would be accomplishment enough for a writer coming so late in life to the English language to master it in all its expressive possibilities,” said board member Louis Bayard on behalf of the foundation’s Malamud Committee. “But Yiyun Li’s body of short fiction is an even greater accomplishment: a series of exquisitely crafted windows into hidden lives that, taken together, form an indelible artistic bridge between her native and adopted lands.”

“She [Li] has the gift of making every story feel like a discovery, freshly unearthed.”
— PEN/Malamud awards committee

yiyun li with short dark hair and bright blue patterned scarf

Photo by ©Basso CANNARSA / Opale

Yiyun Li is the author of ten books, including Where Reasons End, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, and Tolstoy Together, 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Li. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages. Li’s honors and awards include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Windham Campbell Prize, the 2021 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Guardian First Book Award, the Asian American Literary Award for fiction, the Benjamin H. Dank Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, the PEN/Jean Stein Award, and others. This year she was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In September, her fifth novel, The Book of Goose, will be published by FSG.

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the PEN/Malamud Award committee for their generous support of short story as an art form,” said Li. “I consider myself a dedicated practitioner of short stories, and I am thrilled by this recognition. I have taught Bernard Malamud’s stories for nearly twenty years, so this award also feels deeply personal.”

As winner of the award, Li joins past recipients Charles Baxter, Peter Ho Davies, Junot Diaz, Amy Hempel, John Updike and Eudora Welty, among others. Princeton faculty members who have received the award include current Creative Writing Program Director Jhumpa Lahiri and Joyce Carol Oates, Professor of Creative Writing, Emeritus.

Li teaches introductory and advanced fiction courses in Princeton’s Creative Writing Program. These undergraduate writing workshops of no more than 10 students are taught by some of the nation’s most celebrated writers. Li’s renowned faculty colleagues include Michael Dickman, Aleksandar Hemon, A.M. Homes, Christina Lazaridi, Jhumpa Lahiri, Paul Muldoon, Patricia Smith, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Susan Wheeler and a number of distinguished lecturers. Each year these faculty members also work individually with 20 to 30 seniors on a creative writing thesis, such as a novel, screenplay, or a collection of short stories, poems, or translations.

Li will be honored virtually at the annual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony held on Friday, December 2, 2022.

Read the full announcement and learn more about the history of the PEN/Malamud Award.

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