Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai was born in 1973 in a small village in the north of Vietnam and moved with her family at the age of six to the Mekong Delta in the south of the country. She received an Australia Awards Scholarship in 1993 for her outstanding academic achievements and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus on communications from Monash University in 1996. Upon her return to Vietnam, Quế Mai worked for various international organizations, including the UN, that work towards the sustainable development of Vietnam.
Quế Mai has published seventeen books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, as well as translations. Her book of poems, which she translated with the Vietnam veteran Bruce Weigl, appeared for the first time in the USA in 2014 under the title »The Secret of Hoa Sen« and was honored with a translation grant from the Lannan Foundation. With her »global poetry, necessary for our troubled times« (Bruce Weigl), Quế Mai not only describes the psychological consequences of the Vietnam War in her own country, but also dedicates her plaintive texts to war orphans, textile workers in Bangladesh, the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines, and mothers all over the world who live under existential threats. For her own poetry, she has received various awards in her home country including the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hanoi Writers Association and the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award. Her debut novel in English will be published in March 2020 under the title »The Mountains Sing«. According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, »›The Mountains Sing‹ is an epic account of Việt Nam’s painful twentieth-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.«
Quế Mai has a Masters in Creative Writing from the UK’s Lancaster University. She is an advocate for gender equality and has designed and conducted a series of gender mainstreaming courses for UN organisations in Vietnam. In addition, she works as a freelance journalist for major national newspapers, writing mainly on art, literature, and social issues. In 2007 she founded the Making Dreams Come True volunteer group, which supports children with cancer in northern Vietnam. For her dedication, she was awarded the Hanoi International Women’s Club Female Vision Award in 2010 and the Australian Alumni Award for Sustainable Social Development in 2008. Quế Mai currently lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she has been running a series of »Our Stories, Our Voices« creative writing workshops for teenage girls who are refugees from Afghanistan.