Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops

Non-Fiction - Memoir
368 Pages
Reviewed on 03/25/2021
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Author Biography

Allison was born and raised in Taiwan and arrived in the U.S. at 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. By recording each of the classes she took––including physical education––and reviewing the tape every night for a year, she eventually learned English well enough to earn an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. But please excuse her if she misuses the verb tenses or mixes up the genders in third-person pronouns when she speaks. It’s no secret––English is a hard language to learn.

Allison writes in both Chinese and English, both fiction and creative nonfiction, which means she spends a lot of time looking up words on She’s a Pushcart Prize nominee and her work has won both national and international awards, including National Championship in the 2010 Life Story Writing Competition in Taipei, Taiwan and the Grand Prize in the 2019 MAST People of Earth writing contest. She’s the inaugural winner of Sandra Carpenter Prize for Creative Nonfiction, first-place winner of the 2019 Segullah Journal writing contest, and first-place winner of 2020 Opossum flash contest, and many more. Visit her at, where you can sign up for her extremely short monthly email.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Cecelia Hopkins for Readers' Favorite

Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops by Allison Hong Merrill begins with an abusive childhood in Taiwan, where one of the few rays of hope is cast by Mormon missionaries. Allison’s father disowns her for accepting the faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints instead of traditional ancestor worship. Allison learns English and achieves a university entrance. However, she delays finishing her degree to marry Cameron and move to America. In America on a student visa, she is destitute when Cameron abandons her and cleans out their joint account. Seeking aid from the church, she transfers to Brigham Young University. After a couple of dating mistakes, she meets the lovely man she believes God has destined for her.

Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops by Allison Hong Merrill is a poignant and compelling memoir. Some of the incidents are challenging, including vivid descriptions of poverty, abuse, and cultural clash. Merrill wrote so persuasively that I was able to identify with her every experience. The viewpoint she presented was uniquely centered in religion and ethnicity yet was universal as the skillful words touched on the basics of human motivation. I finished reading the story with tears in my eyes, as it was one of the most expressive accounts I have ever read. Merrill opened my eyes to the vulnerability of the immigrant experience and impressed me with the young woman’s determination to succeed. I can recommend Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops by Allison Hong Merrill for anyone who enjoys a combination of women's literature and a human interest story.

Linda Murphy Marshall

This is a beautifully-written memoir about a woman with enormous courage and faith. I highly recommend it.