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VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Night


Ling Ma, winner of the 2019 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for Severance, reads from her book and participates in a Q&A session. A book sale, signing and reception following the reading.

The event is free and open to all, but please register. Parking is available for a fee in the West Broad Street, West Main Street and West Cary Street parking decks. For special accommodations, or to register offline, please contact the VCU Libraries Events Office at (804) 828-0593.

About the Book

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese-immigrant parents, she's had her fill of uncertainty. She's content just to carry on. She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible and watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.

Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.

A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma's Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it's a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.

About the Author

Ling Ma was born in Sanming, China. She grew up in Utah, Nebraska and Kansas. She attended the University of Chicago and received an M.F.A. from Cornell University. Prior to graduate school she worked as a journalist and an editor. Her writing has appeared in Granta, VICE, Playboy, Chicago Reader, Ninth Letter and other publications. A chapter of Severance received the 2015 Graywolf SLS Prize. Ma currently lives in Chicago.


The Cabell First Novelist Award is presented on behalf of VCU's M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, VCU Libraries, the VCU Department of English, Barnes & Noble @ VCU and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.

Image: Ling Ma photo, courtesy of Ling Man/New York City photo, by Jon Flobrant, courtesy of Unsplash, and model photo, courtesy of FSGworkingpress