Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is the author of eleven books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction in Vietnamese and English. She is the translator of seven books, published in Việt Nam and the United States.

Born in a small village in the North of Việt Nam in 1973, Quế Mai migrated with her family to the Mekong Delta, South of Việt Nam when she was six years old. Thanks to her academic achievements, in 1993, Quế Mai received a scholarship from the Australian government to study in Australia for four years. Upon her return to Việt Nam, Quế Mai worked for several international organisations, including UN agencies, to foster Việt Nam’s sustainable development. Quế Mai is passionate about literary exchanges amongst cultures and has introduced Vietnamese poetry on Prairie Schooner. She has a Masters in Creative Writing with the UK's Lancaster University and is a Honorary Fellow in Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University. Her PhD thesis focuses on her four research areas: the representation of women and disadvantaged groups in Việt Nam War fiction, the manifestation of trauma/PTSD in fiction, the ethics of creative writing, and the needs to decolonize Việt Nam.

Quế Mai's works have appeared in many international publications including BBC Vietnamese, Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Great River Review, Red Wheel Barrow, Fourth River, Words without Borders, and Moving Worlds. Her writing has been translated and published in English, Spanish, Bahasa Indonesian, Chinese, Uzbek, Bengali, Hebrew, Japanese, Czech, and German. She has given creative writing lectures and presented her work in Việt Nam, the Philippines, the United States, Colombia, India, the United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Venezuela, Hongkong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Germany.

Quế Mai has been honored with the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, First Prize - the Poetry Competition About 1,000 Years Hà Nội, as well as the Việt Nam Writers Association’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advancement of Vietnamese Literature Overseas. The Los Angeles Review of Books, in their review of Quế Mai’s The Secret of Hoa Sen calls her 'one of Vietnam's foremost contemporary poets.' Quế Mai has also received grants and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation (the United States), the University of Lancaster (the United Kingdom), as well as the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development (the Netherlands). She is committed to writing about war and injustice, to call for peace and equality.

Quế Mai is represented by Julie Stevenson from the MASSIE & McQUILKIN literary agency. Her debut novel in English, THE MOUNTAINS SING, is forthcoming with Algonquin Books on March 17, 2020. According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, this novel “is an epic account of Vietnam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling.” Quế Mai's book for young readers, SEARCHING FOR EARTH CAKES AND SKY CAKES, is forthcoming with Benchmark Education in autumn 2019.

Quế Mai currently lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her husband and two children. She has been running weekly creative writing workshops for Afghan refugees at the Roshan Learning Center. She is actively involved in sustainable development work in Việt Nam and has been acknowledged with the Hanoi International Women’s Club Female Vision Award and the Australian Alumni Award for Sustainable Social Development. She regularly writes for newspapers of Việt Nam, including Tuổi Trẻ, where her essays on women and children's rights, education, environmental protection, job creation, and social ethics have been featured on the front page of this leading national newspaper.



  • "A sweeping story that positions Vietnamese life within with rich and luminous history of national epics like The Tale of Kiều and The Iliad. Expansive in scope and feeling, The Mountains Sing is a feat of hope, unflinchingly felt inquiries of the past, and the courageous story telling of the present."
    Ocean Vuong
    Author of the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous.
  • “The Mountains Sing is an epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling. Through the travails of one family, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai brings us close to the horrors of famine, war, and class struggle. But in this moving and riveting novel, she also shows us a postwar Việt Nam, a country of hope and renewal, home to a people who have never given up.”
    Viet Thanh Nguyen
    Author of The Sympathizer, Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.
  • "Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has written a wonderful, intricate story of the lives of a Vietnamese family trying to make it through generations of war. The Mountains Sing is a beautiful story of the simple challenge of keeping a family together and the courage of perseverance. It is told with the sureness of a master storyteller with a poet's spirit. A large and complicated story, marvelous to read."
    Larry Heinemann
    Author of Paco’s Story, recipient of the National Book Award