Ling Ma

Ling Ma
Assistant Professor of Practice in the Arts
MFA, Cornell University, 2016, AB, University of Chicago, 2005
Teaching at UChicago since 2017


I’m primarily a fiction writer who’s interested in the narrative tropes and genres of popular culture. My debut novel Severance (FSG) consists of seemingly disparate parts: apocalyptic thriller, coming-of-age roman à clef, immigration narrative, and office novel. I’m interested in issues of labor and money, of the body, the evolution of cities, and the supernatural and surreal as it speaks to our secret fantasies and projections. My work draws inspiration from a variety of sources: the work of Kafka, the 90s/00s zine scene and blog traditions, contemporary art, and reality TV, to name a few.

Severance received the Kirkus Prize, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. It was a finalist for the Pen / Hemingway Award, and named a New York Times Notable Book. My writings, both fiction and nonfiction, have appeared in Granta, Playboy, Vice, Chicago Reader, Ninth Letter, Buzzfeed, and more.

The best part about starting out as a writer is the freedom to make anything you want, to experiment and take risks, adhering to or breaking whichever rules you choose. In the end, however, we are only ourselves, and it is the work we produce, even in its roughest drafts, that ultimately informs us what we’re trying to do. I hope to help students mine their distinct, subterranean voices, channel their obsessions, and most importantly, learn to enjoy the process. I advise on both beginning projects and more advanced theses.