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Ling Ma Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Severance (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Ling Ma is an award-winning upcoming American author and college professor. She has written the 2018 novel, Severance, which has won her the Kirkus Prize and has been listed as a Notable Book of the Year. Ma’s work has appeared in a number of literary magazines like ACM, Ninth Letter, Granta, Chicago Reader, Vice, Playboy, and several others. Severance has received a lot of appreciation from critics all over the world, who have described it as a nail-biting indictment of the late stage capitalism as well as a chilling vision of what is seen after. Several other critics have said that the novel is not Hobbesian experiment or a Marxist screed. One of the chapters of the book has won the Graywolf Prize in 2015.

Author Ma teaches art at Chicago University along with writing novels. In fact, teaching is her full-time job, whereas novel writing is something that she pursues during her spare times. Ma wishes to change it in the near future and become a full-time author with multiple books in print. Ma was born in Sanming, China. She migrated to the United States at a very young age and grew up in Kansas, Utah, and Nebraska. She earned her MFA degree from Cornell University and followed it up with an AB from the University of Chicago. Immediately after her graduation, Ma took a teaching job at the university as an Assistant Professor. Author Ma says that while she was pursuing her MFA at Cornell, she was pressured to write a traditional novel based on immigration because of her status as an immigrant. However, she did not give in to the rising pressure and instead chose to write a story about alienation and otherness revolving around the zombie apocalypse.

According to Ma, the character description of the main protagonist in her novel resembles her own. She is also an immigrant of the first generation like her. Ma’s book has been reviewed by the NY Times as a dystopian narrative laced with an encapsulation of the nostalgia of the first-generation immigrant for New York. It is believed that Ma started writing the book while she was employed with Playboy as a fact-checker. She worked in this job between 2009 and 2012. Ma first thought of developing it into a short story. She wrote most of the manuscript from her office during the last few months of the job. After leaving the job, Ma continued writing and editing the manuscript, which finally ended up becoming a novel. The journey of changing the manuscript from a short story to a novel was achieved by Ma while she was surviving on her severance pay, hence she decided to name the novel as Severance.

The last phase of the novel was completed during her MFA program at Cornell. In addition to her debut novel, Ma has written and published short stories in Playboy, Chicago Reader, and Granta. Ma has said that the idea of writing a novel came to her mind when she grew sick of having a desk job and coming across the same people every single day. She wanted to leave the job then and there, but being unemployed scared her a lot. And with the hope of changing this situation someday, Ma began writing Severance and succeeded in completing it over a period of several years. She is relieved that the idea worked and helped her overcome her mundane lifestyle.

The debut book written by author Ling Ma is entitled ‘Severance’. It was released by Farrar Straus & Giroux in 2018. This book is an apocalyptic satire that describes the story of a young lady who transforms into a worker bee from an orphan and then into a survivor. The central character of the book is depicted as Candace Chen. She works in an office in a high-rise building in Manhattan and follows a routine life every day. When her immigrant parents of the Chinese origin pass away, Candace decides that she is done with the uncertainties of her life. With nothing else to do in life, she continues to stick to her routine. Candace Chen goes to work daily and carries out her scheduled tasks as usual. When not in the office, Candace troubleshoots Gemstone Bible for teens and watches movies with her lover in a basement in Greenpoint.

Candace becomes so much indulged in her mundane lifestyle that she doesn’t notice that New York has been swept by a strange plague. With the spreading of the Shen Fever, families move out of the city, companies put a stop to their operations, and the subways come to a halt. As Candace Chen is among the few who haven’t contacted the fever, she is asked by her bosses to cover the city’s ruins along with a skeleton crew with the promise of a big payoff in the end. Candace agrees to complete the task and sets out to take photographs of the abandoned, eerie city along with her crew. Soon after, each of the crew members acquired the fever except Candace, leaving her all alone to do the remainder of the task. Candace is asked to post the pics an anonymous blogger named NY Ghost.

After a while into the task, Candace Chen realizes that she won’t be able to get out of the mess on her own and will contact the deadly fever at some point. To her surprise, she comes across a survivors’ group that rescues her. The group is led by a power-hungry, IT tech guy named Bob. He informs Candace that he is taking the group to a place called Facility, where the survivors will have everything to build a new society. As much as this idea impresses her, Candace knows that Bob will try to exploit the secret she is carrying if he becomes aware of it. So, she plans to leave the group and escape from the rescuers. On the whole, this novel provides a moving story about family, rituals, missed opportunities, routines, etc. It is more of a coming-of-adulthood story that looks like a hilarious satire. The readers felt that the book is a tribute to all those connections that make the individuals do more than just survive. It was received very well by one and all, and also reviewed very well by numerous critics all across the globe.

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