2017 Contest Judges


Ha Jin is a professor and director of the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. Born in China in 1956, Xuefei Jin (Ha Jin is his pen name) was a teenager when China entered the Cultural Revolution. He became a member of the People’s Liberation Army at the age of fourteen. His novel Waiting, which won him the National Book Award in 1999, and the PEN/ Faulkner in 2000, was based on his experiences during his five-year service in the Red Army. He was awarded the PEN/Faulkner again in 2005 for War Trash. His books include A Free Life (2007), The Writer as Migrant (2008), A Good Fall (2009) and Nanjing Requiem (Pantheon 2011).

Ha Jin earned his Master’s Degree at Shandong University in China, and in 1986 came to the United States to begin his doctoral work at Brandeis. In 1991 he was accepted into Boston University’s Creative Writing Program, where he currently is a professor and program director of the program. Before returning to Boston University Jin had taught poetry, fiction and English Literature at Emory University. Though a native of China, he has done his writing in English. In addition to the National Book award, Ha Jin received the Pen/Hemingway award for his first collection of short stories, Ocean of Words (1996), and the Flannery O’Connor prize for his second, Under the Red Flag (1997). In 2005 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Ha Jin


Ariel Levy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine since 2008. There, she has profiled Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that brought down the Defense of Marriage Act, Diana Nyad, who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida at the age of sixty-four, and Caster Semenya, the South African runner who won the World Championship when she was seventeen, and forced the International Association of Athletics Federations to reexamine its definition of “female.” Levy received the National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism for her piece “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” which she is expanding into a book for Random House. She was the guest editor of the anthology The Best American Essays of 2015.

Ariel Levy


Kazim Ali is a poet, essayist, fiction writer and translator. His books include several volumes of poetry, including Sky Ward (Wesleyan University Press, 2013),winner of the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry, The Far Mosque, winner of Alice James Books' New England/New York Award, The Fortieth Day (BOA Editions, 2008), and the cross-genre text Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (Wesleyan University Press, 2009). He has also published a translation of Water's Footfall by Sohrab Sepehri (Omnidawn Press, 2011), Oasis of Now: Selected Poems by Sohrab Sepehri (BOA Editions, 2013) and (with Libby Murphy) L'amour by Marguerite Duras (Open Letter Books, 2013). His novels include Quinn's Passage (blazeVox books), named one of "The Best Books of 2005" by Chronogram magazine and The Disappearance of Seth (Etruscan Press, 2009), and his books of essays include Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art and the Architecture of Silence (University of Michigan Press, 2010), Fasting for Ramadan (Tupelo Press, 2011).

In addition to co-editing Jean Valentine: This-World Company (University of Michigan Press, 2012), he is a contributing editor for AWP Writers Chronicle and associate editor of the literary magazine FIELD and founding editor of the small press Nightboat Books. He is the series co-editor for both Poets on Poetry and Under Discussion, from the University of Michigan Press. He is an associate professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College. www.kazimali.com

Kazim Ali

Photo Credits:
Kazim Ali © Brett Hall Jones