May-lee Chai is the author of eight books, including three novels, My Lucky Face, Dragon Chica, and Tiger Girl; two works of memoir, The Girl from Purple Mountain (co-authored with her father, Winberg Chai) and Hapa Girl; a collection of short stories and essays, Glamorous Asians; a nonfiction book about the culture and history of China, China A to Z (also co-authored with Winberg Chai); and her translation into English of the Chinese author Ba Jin’s 1934 Autobiography (Ba Jin Zi Zhuan). Her own books have been translated into German, Hebrew, and Chinese.
Awards and honors include: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Prose; 2014 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature from APALA (Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association), Young Adult category for Tiger Girl; Kiriyama Prize 2008 Notable Book for Hapa Girl: A Memoir; Honorable Mention for the 2007 Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Award for Hapa Girl: A Memoir; and a nomination for the National Book Award in nonfiction for The Girl from Purple Mountain. Her essay “The Blue Boot” was named a Notable Essay of 2012 in Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed.
Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Entropy, The Rumpus, Gulf Coast, North American Review, ZYZZYVA, Missouri Review, Seventeen, Many Mountains Moving, Christian Science Monitor, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Jakarta Post Weekender, Southwest Magazine, the Bedford Introduction to Literature, and At Our Core: Women Writing on Power.
May-lee received her B.A. from Grinnell College, where she majored in French and Chinese Studies. She received her first M.A. from Yale University in East Asian Studies and a second M.A. in English-Creative Writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She received her M.F.A. from San Francisco State University.
May-lee was born in California but has lived in fourteen states in the U.S. and four countries. She has walked to Burma from Xishuang Banna. She sat under a 100o-year-old pagoda but she did not attain enlightenment.