Credit: Gaby Deimeke

WINNER »

2020

Hannah Bae

nonfiction

Hannah Bae is a Korean American freelance journalist and writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her essays have appeared in Catapult, Slice Magazine, Bitch Media, Pigeon Pages, among other publications. She is the recipient of recent fellowships from The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and The Poynter Institute. She received her B.A. from the University of Miami. Her essay, “Survival Mode,” was published in the anthology, Don’t Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health (Algonquin, 2018). 


Bae is currently working on a memoir entitled Way Enough about family estrangement, mental illness, childhood trauma, and cultural identity. Her nominator writes, “Her chilling, closely rendered depictions of feeling unwanted as a child by both biologic and foster parents are made even more complex by feeling ostracized in school because of her class and race. With heartbreaking vulnerability, she recounts her struggles to free herself from her parents’ manipulations, while also empathetically exploring their own history of trauma, growing up in war ravaged Korea with parents whose own mental illness went untreated. Hannah's life story is as unique as it is inspiring. Already her work has brought comfort to so many.” 


Bae plans to use her Writer’s Award “to assist with my reporting and research needs; continue my self-guided education in the craft of creative nonfiction and the business of publishing; and most of all, to benefit from the gift of uninterrupted time.” She concludes, “I am writing my memoir because I felt alone in navigating familial estrangement and mental illness, especially as a person of color. By completing this book, I hope to reach readers who will see parts of themselves in my pages and realize that they are not alone, either.”

Excerpt from “From Haunting to Healing: On the Gwangju Uprising and ‘Human Acts,’’’ Catapult, May 18, 2020.


“When I think of my family tree, all I can picture is the wreckage after a hurricane has blown through: a partially uprooted trunk, with whole limbs torn off at unnatural angles. Jagged emptiness left where names, places, and details should be. So many forces—colonization, war, poverty, illness—took their toll on my grandparents’ generation. In my parents’ lifetime, the unsightly gaps in the branches stem from the losses that can come with immigration—of homeland, of language, of extended family, and of a history that my father must have hoped to erase.”

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