May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to share the remarkable stories from writers and speakers on topics as diverse as tech, politics, literature, heritage, immigration, and more. Contact us for more information about bringing one of these speakers to your school, library, business, or association.
Ocean Vuong is a celebrated poet whose debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, was one of the most acclaimed novels of 2019. A dazzling coming-of-age story that touches on identity, immigration, and the power of language to both connect and divide, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous launched Vuong into the national spotlight. Vuong was named an “Essential Asian American Writer” by Buzzfeed Books, and he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the youngest recipient of the grant in the 2019 class. Whether speaking about the challenges and rewards of creating art from the margins of mainstream American society or revealing the process behind his award-winning writing, Vuong is a vital literary voice for audiences everywhere.
Celeste Ng is a New York Times bestselling novelist who writes profoundly moving stories of family, race, secrets, and longing. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was the winner of the 2014-2015 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Adult Fiction. Ng’s sophomore novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was recently adapted into a highly acclaimed television adaptation from Hulu and Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine. In her lectures, Ng addresses how Asian-Americans fit into conversations about race, how people identify, and her own path to becoming a writer.
Ha Jin is an award-winning, internationally bestselling author of six novels and numerous collections of short stories and poetry, including the National Book Award-winning Waiting. Born in mainland China, Ha Jin grew up in a small rural town in Liaoning Province. From age fourteen to nineteen he volunteered to serve in the People’s Liberation Army, and began teaching himself middle and high school courses in his third year in the army. When the Tiananmen massacre changed China’s political landscape, Jin realized it would be impossible to write honestly in China, and chose to stay in the US, where he had been studying American Literature. He speaks to audiences about what it means to create freely, and urges them to never take creative freedom lightly.
Charles Yu is a screenwriter and the author of the critically-acclaimed novel Interior Chinatown, a genre-bending masterpiece that explores the confining stereotypes of Asian Americans in Hollywood and in American culture more broadly. Yu’s previous novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, was a New York Times Notable Book and a TIME Top 10 Fiction Book of 2010. In his entertaining and thought-provoking lectures, Yu speaks to audiences of all kinds about the Asian American experience, representation and stereotypes in film and television, and the unique power of science fiction to address the human condition.
As a little girl, Girl in Translation author Jean Kwok emigrated from Hong Kong to New York, where—despite working long hours in a Chinatown factory—she excelled in the classroom, eventually graduating from Harvard and Columbia. With infectious energy and charm, she comments on the American immigrant experience and ballroom dance, the subject of her new novel Mambo in Chinatown.
Megha Majumdar is an editor at Catapult whose novel, A Burning, is one of the most highly anticipated debuts of 2020. Set in a contemporary India spinning toward extremism, A Burning relentlessly traces the lives of three characters whose fates become irrevocably intertwined in the wake of a devastating act of domestic terrorism. With a fresh voice and insightful analysis, Majumdar speaks to audiences about her perspective as a writer from the diaspora, the troubling conditions in both her current home and her country of origin, and the project of writing politically-engaged fiction in a time of crisis.
A widely respected speaker and writer, Chang-rae Lee explores race, class, and immigrant life in America with poignancy and originality. His debut novel, Native Speaker, won the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award and his status as a literary master has been confirmed by, among other works, The Surrendered, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and On Such a Full Sea, his most recent novel.
Jamie Ford is the award-winning author of the bestselling novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was awarded the Asian Pacific American Award for Literature and was on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years. Ford is popular with audiences of all ages, and is a favorite for community reads, First Year Experiences, and book club programs. In his powerful lectures, Ford talks about the power of love stories to cross cultural borders, the challenges (and comforts) of growing up biracial, and the social responsibility of writing historical fiction.
After catching critics’ eyes with her debut Short Girls, Bich Minh Nguyen went on to write Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, which won the PEN/Jerard Award and a “Best Book of the Year” nod from The Chicago Tribune. A frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Huffington Post, she deftly addresses Asian American literature, creative writing, and generational shifts in Vietnamese-American immigrant experience.
Anand Giridharadas is an editor-at-large for TIME, bestselling author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, and the host of Seat at the Table on VICE TV, a weekly program that discusses politics, culture, and common life. He is a former columnist and correspondent for The New York Times, having written, most recently, “The Billionaire Election.” Giridharadas speaks about growing inequality and argues that we need to change the way we “change the world”, that generosity from corporate and private interests is not a substitute for justice, and that real solutions come from the democratic process of working to reform the underlying systems of society.
Priya Parker’s bold approach to gatherings is redefining the way people connect at work, from team-building to meetings. The founder of boutique advisory firm Thrive Labs, she helps activists, elected officials, corporate executives, educators, and philanthropists create transformative, unforgettable gatherings that allow them to step back from their daily routine, rediscover their motivations, and develop strategies for innovation. In her interactive talks and in her book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, she challenges audiences to dig down to the root of why and how we make connections, create communities, and build organizations. Parker’s podcast, Together Apart, and her innovative New York Times op-ed, “How to Be Together Apart in the Time of Coronavirus,” are direct responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, examining how the outbreak has shifted our definition of gathering and proven the resilience of the human spirit to find creative ways to come together.
Emmy-nominated journalist Alex Wagner has brought her indispensable perspective on the news to CBS News and Showtime’s The Circus. Wagner examines the American landscape and tackles the ways in which conversations around race, immigration, and politics have shaped our national identity. She hosts two podcasts: Radio Atlantic, in which she holds revealing conversations with newsmakers from all walks of life; and most recently, Six Feet Apart, which offer a window into the hidden worlds of the Covid-19 pandemic. In her writing and talks, Wagner asks—and attempts to answer—fundamental questions about what it means to be an American in a changing and complex 21st-century political landscape.
Ruth Ozeki is a filmmaker, novelist, and Zen Buddhist priest. Her novels have been published internationally, and her most recent work, A Tale for the Time Being, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Ozeki’s next book, The Book of Form and Emptiness, will publish in Summer 2021. Whether discussing the meat industry, agribusiness, or Zen Buddhism, Ruth Ozeki’s lectures are always thoughtful, sometimes philosophical, but never without her trademark wit.
Bend Not Break author Ping Fu knows what it is like to be a pioneering software programmer, an entrepreneur, a CEO, and a true American success story. Born in Maoist China, Ping fled a life of poverty to eventually co-found Geomagic, a revolutionary 3D software company. She draws upon her own remarkable journey to highlight the importance of resilience in life and in the cutthroat world of start-ups.