Yiyun Li, a Chinese fiction writer who has struggled to remain in the United States even as her work continues to receive acclaim, was among the winners announced Wednesday of the 22nd annual Whiting Writers' Awards - $40,000 (€31,796) prizes given to "emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise." Other winners included Navajo poet Sherwin Bitsui, Irish author Patrick O'Keeffe and Saudi Arabian novelist Micheline Aharonian Marcom. Also honoured were playwrights Bruce Norris and Stephen Adly Guirgis, poets Tyehimba Jess and Suji Kwock Kim, and fiction writers Charles D'Ambrosio and Nina Marie Martinez.
Previous recipients include Jonathan Franzen, Michael Cunningham and Tobias Wolff.
The 33-year-old Li, whose story collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, came out last year, has already won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. She was also a finalist for the Kiriyama Prize, given annually for books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia.
A native of China who lives in Oakland, California, Li teaches creative writing at Mills College where fellow Whiting winner Marcom is also a faculty member. Li was turned down last year for permanent residency by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and rejected again upon appeal. The author had applied based on "exceptional ability" in the arts.
In a recent e-mail sent to The Associated Press, Li said she had filed a new petition "and the first step of it was approved in June." She says the process could take two to three years. Meanwhile, she is "working on a novel, which is also taking quite a while, though hopefully not as long as the residency."