Chinese-American author Yiyun Li is the first female winner of the £30,000 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for her story "A Sheltered Woman".
Director Richard Eyre presented Li with her winner's cheque at the Stationers’ Hall this evening (Friday 24th April).
Judge Elif Shafak said: “Amidst a diverse and dazzling shortlist, which made our job as jury members very, very difficult, the Chinese-American author Yiyun Li’s 'A Sheltered Woman' has enchanted us with its exquisite crafting, brilliant observations and modest but powerful voice. It also gives me immense joy that with her beautiful story she has become the first woman to win the ‘short-form Booker.’”
“A Sheltered Woman” is the story of a Chinese-American nanny hired to spend a month and no more supporting a new mother and her baby. Trying to keep detached from the emotional turmoil around her, she is also entrapped by her own past. It was first published in the New Yorker in March 2014.
Li, who was shortlisted in 2011 for her story “The Science of Flight”, grew up in Beijing. She has written for the New Yorker and won international awards including the MacArthur Foundation Award in 2010. Her first short story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (Fourth Estate) won the 2005 Guardian First Book Award and a PEN/Hemingway Award. She was selected by Granta as one of the 21 Best Young American Novelists under 35 and by the New Yorker as one of its ’20 under 40’ names to watch. She was a Man Booker International Prize judge in 2013.
Judge Andrew Holgate, who is also the Sunday Times literary editor, said: “I’ve been a judge for all six awards and it is fitting, after seeing so many outstanding female authors on the shortlist each year, to see a woman writer picking up this award. The entrants are read anonymously in the early stages and we have discovered some really fresh new talent over the years, including this year the newcomer Rebecca F John. The calibre of the entire shortlist was exceptional but the mastery displayed by Yiyun Li in her chillingly cool and insightful story left little doubt she should be the winner.”
Li beat off opposition from fellow Americans Elizabeth McCracken and Scott O’Connor, New Zealander Paula Morris, Canadian Madeleine Thien and Rebecca F John from Wales. When presenting the award, Eyre said that “the quality of the entrants demonstrated that the short story is an extremely vigorous form”. The shortlisted authors each received £1,000.
Joining Eyre, Shafak and Holgate this year as judges were: critic and broadcaster Alex Clark; novelist Aminatta Forna; and Lord Matthew Evans, co-founder of the Award, non-voting chair of judges, and a former chairman of EFG Private Bank, with whom he continues to work with as an advisor.
Last year’s winner was American author Adam Johnson for his story “Nirvana”.