Understanding the perspectives of immigrants is perhaps the most vital piece of the immigration conversation. We are proud to represent a diverse group of speakers who can speak to the processes and hardships of immigration. In their talks, these speakers illuminate the difficult realities and intricate policies affecting refugees, immigrants, or naturalized citizens of America.
Jean Guerrero is an Emmy Award-winning journalist whose incisive investigations question our assumptions about who crosses the US-Mexican border—and why. Crux, her debut memoir, tells the story of Guerrero’s quest to understand her father, an immigrant who moved across three continents while struggling with mental illness and addiction. In moving presentations, she blends firsthand journalism and current events with deeply personal reflections and advice for aspiring reporters.
Cristina Henríquez is the author of the widely acclaimed novel The Book of Unknown Americans, an affecting portrait of an immigrant community brimming with vivid characters whose lives reveal unexpected truths about the depth of the immigrant experience. Inspired by her own family and community, Henríquez is committed to putting a human face on immigration headlines. She encourages audiences to understand the courage and value of those who have crossed borders in pursuit of a new life.
Abdi Nor Iftin was born in Somalia and forced to flee to Kenya during the violent rise of radical Islamist group Al Shabaab. After winning entrance to the United States through an annual visa lottery, his tumultuous journey to the US was documented by the BBC and This American Life. His powerful memoir, Call Me American, details his upbringing in Somalia, his love of American culture, and his ultimate migration to the United States. Iftin is now proudly on the path to citizenship. Through his inspirational talks, Iftin illuminates the realities of life as a refugee and reflects on what America still means to those longing for a better life.
Jean Kwok emigrated from Hong Kong from Brooklyn when she was 5 and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. Despite working long hours and working as many as four jobs at a time, she graduated with honors in English and American literature from Harvard University. In her best-selling books, Girl in Translation, Searching for Sylvie Lee, and Mambo in Chinatown, she comments on the American immigrant experience about being a child of two worlds.
Chang-rae Lee is the acclaimed author of the award-winning Native Speaker, The Surrendered, and On Such a Full Sea. In his writing, he explores the themes of alienation and betrayal that mark the experiences of many immigrants and first-generation citizens. With his poignant and original voice, he speaks on the issue of race, class, and the immigrant life in America.
Megha Majumdar is the author of highly anticipated A Burning. Drawing from her own experience of growing up in Kolkata, India coming to the United States to attend Harvard University and living here to work as an editor at Catapult, Majumdar speaks about her perspective as a writer from the diaspora and the troubling conditions in bother current home and her country of origin with a fresh voice and insightful analysis.
Lauren Markham is the author of The Far Away Brothers, the true story of teenage identical twins who traded El Salvador’s gang violence for life as undocumented immigrants in California. An accomplished journalist, educator, and advocate, Markham is an authority on international refugee issues and child migration in the United States. The Far Away Brothers examines the root causes of this migration, while attempting to understand why and how children migrate to the United States alone and under hazardous conditions. Her presentations touch on the effects of recent American policy and the future of undocumented immigrants. She also speaks about the complex issues facing inner-city schools with high immigrant populations.
Dinaw Mengestu is an Ethiopian-American novelist who has received widespread critical acclaim for his imitate depictions of the immigrant experience in America. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, his family immigrated to the United States when he was only 2 years old. In both his writing and his talks, Mengestu explores issues of cultural identity and dislocation. He challenges audience to think critically about the reality of the American dream.
Bich Minh Nguyen (pronounced Bic Min Ngwin), who goes by Beth, was a baby when her family fled Vietnam to the United States. These experiences formed the basis of her memoir, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, which discuss the themes of the refugee experience, immigration, food, and family and how they relate to so many other areas of life.
Dan-el Padilla Peralta came to the United States from the Dominican Republic with his family in 1989, hoping to achieve the American dream. Still, their life in the US was rife with obstacles. In his memoir, Undocumented and his profound lectures, Peralta chronicles his journey from New York City homeless shelters to the top of his class at Princeton University and offers an honest and inspiring glimpse of the Hispanic-American immigrant experience. His essential speeches address the history of immigration and reveal his inspiring odyssey to the Ivy League.
Najla Said is the author of Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family, a warm and engaging memoir and coming-of-age story about growing up as a daughter of a world-renowned Palestinian scholar and wishing to fit in and who often felt conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said resonates with children of immigrants who has experience conflicts about their background.
Gary Shteyngart spent the first seven years of his childhood in Soviet Union before immigrating to the United States. Growing up in Queens, New York, Shteyngart had no television in the apartment and English was not the household language. This unique upbringing is brought to light in his New York Times bestseller memoir, Little Failure, where he shares his American immigrant experience. As a speaker, Shteyngart explores what it means to be an immigrant, a son, an American, a grow-up, and a writer.
Ocean Vuong is a celebrated poet whose debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, was one of the most acclaimed novels of the year. 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. 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.