Allison Hong Merrill was born and raised in Taiwan and arrived in the US at age twenty-two as a university student. That's when she realized her school English wasn't much help when asking for directions on the street or opening a bank account. She eventually learned English well enough to earn an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, however, and she now writes in both Chinese and English, both fiction and creative nonfiction, which means she spends a lot of time looking up words at Dictionary.com. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the Grand Prize winner of the 2019 MAST People of Earth writing contest. She is also the inaugural winner of Sandra Carpenter Prize for Creative Nonfiction, first-place winner of the 2019 Segullah Journal writing contest, first-place winner of 2020 Opossum flash prose contest, the runner-up in the 2020 Q2 Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest, and the third-place winner in the Storymakers Contest. Her work can be found in the Life Story Anthology and Liahona Magazine (both based in Taipei, Taiwan), Ensign Magazine, Flying South Literary Magazine, Dialogue Journal, Motherscope Magazine, Past-Ten Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, and LDS Beta Reader Mind Game Anthology. Allison lives in Orem, Utah with her husband and their three sons.
2022 Maincrest Media Book Awards Winner in Memoir
2022 U.S. Selfies Book Awards Finalist in Autobiography/Memoir
2022 16th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist in Memoir
2022 Book Excellence Awards Winner in Memoir
2022 London Book Festival Winner in Biography, Autobiography, Memoir
2022 BookFest Book Awards First Place Winner in Non-Fiction: Memoirs
2022 Eric Hoffer First Horizon Book Awards Finalist
2022 Feathered Quill Book Awards Silver Award in Memoir/Biography
2022 Reader Views Literary Awards Bronze Award Winner in Memoir/Autobiography/Biography
2021 CIBA Hearten Book Awards Finalist
2021 Book Viral Millennium Book Award Winner
2021 Literary Titan Book Awards Gold Winner
2021 IAN Book of the Year Awards Second Place Winner for Non-Fiction Book of the Year
2021 IAN Book of the Year Awards Winner in Outstanding Non-Fiction: Memoir
2021 International Impact Book Awards Winner
2021 Firebird Book Award Winner
2021 Readers' Favorite Book Awards Gold Medal in Non-Fiction - Memoir
2021 Zibby Awards Winner in Best Structure
"A surprising but compelling memoir of resilience and family."
". . . [A] poignant and compelling memoir. . . . The viewpoint [Merrill] presented was uniquely centered in religion and ethnicity yet was universal as the skillful words touched on the basics of human motivation."
-Readers' Favorite, 5-star review
"Must Read! A self-deprecating memoir, beautifully depicting the intricacies of Chinese culture and the timeless search for where one truly belongs."
"From her journey as a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant speaking only Mandarin Chinese to her voyages back and forth through different spiritual and social frames of mind, Merrill creates a powerful saga of a personal journey replete with emotionally-charged wellsprings of inheritance, discovery, and change."
-D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
"The book explores independence, maturity, faith, and love with a strong voice and narrative structure. . . . Supported by strong, well-paced writing, this makes for a very enjoyable read."
-The BookLife Prize
"Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops is a fascinating, important, and well-developed narrative, told by a sympathetic narrator with much urgency and grace."
-Sue William Silverman, author of How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences
"Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops follows Allison's journey from Taiwan to Utah seeking love and belonging after a difficult childhood, marriage, and divorce. The story is heartfelt, brave, ultimately inspiring, and written in a uniquely charming voice."
-Harrison Candelaria Fletcher, author of Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams
"Russian composer Dmitri Shostavoch said, 'When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.' In the case of young Allison Hong Merrill, her desire to believe in something may have saved her from ultimate despair. Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops masterfully weaves stories of the author's Chinese family, spanning two decades, intermingled with regional history, culture, and culture shock in America. A fascinating tale of both cruelty and compassion."
-Jodi Orgill Brown, interactions expert, speaker, and award-winning author of The Sun Still Shines
"Allison Hong Merrill has a gift for writing a dramatic tale while simultaneously sharing her hard-won wisdom. Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops reads like a novel. Merrill's story not only gives a reader a greater understanding of Chinese culture, language, and traditions but also provides insight into the human condition while building a bridge between east and west. A brilliant and beautiful debut!"
-Rev. Camilla Sanderson, author of The Mini Book of Mindfulness
"Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops is a deeply moving memoir that depicts the story of a Taiwanese immigrant bride abandoned in Texas and how she triumphs over tremendous odds to build her American dream. Allison Hong Merrill's gift of storytelling will take you on an exciting, rewarding, and emotional journey and leave you wanting more."
-Dr. Linda Murphy Marshall, author of Ivy Lodge: A Memoir
"Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops is a beautiful memoir that will bring you to tears and make you laugh in the same few pages. Allison Hong Merrill's experiences growing up in Taiwan are both heart-wrenching and inspirational. . . . Interwoven into the compelling scenes is Allison's resilience, which burns deep in her soul, propelling her forward a day at a time, until she can fully grasp how her trials have made her stronger, more sympathetic, and more loving. Her knack for blending her remarkable heritage with poignant insights makes this book one to absorb instead of simply reading."
-Heather B. Moore, author of The Paper Daughters of Chinatown
"Allison Hong Merrill makes three intertwined journeys through family, faith, and immigration, each filled with danger, heartbreak, and ultimately joy. Watching Allison grow from fearful child and unknowing bride into her own power to love and be loved is meaningful and moving, and discovering her native Taiwan through her childhood stories is fascinating. A powerful and inspiring journey from loneliness and fear to love and hope."
-Allison K. Williams, social media editor at Brevity Magazine and author of Seven Draft: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book
"Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops is an enthralling and thought-provoking memoir . . . [A] charming aspect of the book is the beautiful representation of Taiwanese culture and Chinese history. Extensive details of rituals and traditions feel exotic . . . Merrill writes with intensity and simplicity; you cannot remain untouched."
-Literary Titan, 5-star review
"It's a feat to which many memoir authors might aspire, but few achieve with such faultless finesse with Merrill refusing to cast herself in the role of victim. And through her openness, we are reminded of the power of faith when forced to travel the path of adversity. . . . An exceptional read, Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops is recommended without reservation."