Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is the author and translator of 17 books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction, 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 Vietnam’s sustainable development.
Quế Mai has a Masters in Creative Writing with Lancaster University and is a Honorary Fellow in Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University. She writes in both Vietnamese and English. Her 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, and Czech. She has given creative writing lectures and presented her work in Việt Nam, the Philippines, the United States, Colombia, India, Belgium, China, Venezuela, Hongkong, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Quế Mai's main research area is the long-lasting impact of wars. She is passionate about literary exchanges amongst cultures and has introduced Vietnamese poetry on Prairie Schooner.
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 charity and sustainable development work in Vietnam and has been acknowledged with the Hanoi International Women’s Club Female Vision Award and the Australian Alumni Award for Sustainable Social Development.