Asian Pacific American Authors and Voices: Podcasts from the Author Events Archive

By Author Events RSS Fri, May 21, 2021

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! You can celebrate the heritage, contributions, and writing of these diverse peoples through the Free Library’s Author Events Series.

Here’s a compilation of ten authors we’ve welcomed over the years, but this is by no means a complete list. Head over to the Author Events podcast page and our YouTube channel for more!

Before you check out these past events, be sure to register for our upcoming virtual event with Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan on Wednesday, June 2. He’ll discuss his new novel, Sex and Vanity, with investigative reporter Nydia Han, who also co-anchors 6ABC Action News Sunday mornings.

Amy Tan | Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir

Recorded October 17, 2017 - In conversation with Laura Kovacs, associate director, Author Events

"Powerful" and "full of magic" (Los Angeles Times), Amy Tan is the author of the beloved novels The Joy Luck Club, a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and for which she also co-wrote the film adaptation screenplay; The Kitchen God's Wife; The Hundred Secret Senses; and The Valley of Amazement, a decades- and continents-spanning story of three generations of women. In addition to several other novels and works of nonfiction, she is the author of two children’s books, and her essays and stories have appeared in scores of periodicals and anthologies. Where the Past Begins is a memoir of Tan’s life, art, and deeply personal inspirations that frame her fiction.

Anna Badkhen | Fisherman’s Blues: A West African Community at Sea with Min Jin Lee | Pachinko

Recorded March 22, 2018

With an artist’s eye and a ground-level view of people in extremis across the world, writer Anna Badkhen offers "rich and lucid prose [that] illustrates her journey as vividly as might a series of photographs" (Christian Science Monitor). Her immersive investigations of the world’s iniquities have yielded six books of nonfiction, most recently The World Is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village and Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah. A contributor to Foreign Policy, The New York Times, and The New Republic, she won the Joel R. Seldin Award for documenting the lives of civilians in war zones. In Fisherman’s Blues, Badkhen documents the cultural, economic, and environmental turmoil in a centuries-old Senegalese fishing village. 

Min Jin Lee is the author of the "accomplished and engrossing" (New York Times Book Review) novel Free Food for Millionaires, a story of culture clash and identity that was named to a number of 2007’s "Best of the Year" lists. She is a former columnist for the Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s leading newspaper, and her fiction, essays, and articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Food & Wine. A National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller, Lee’s newest novel, Pachinko, tells the generation-spanning story of a Korean family’s fight for purchase in 20th-century Japan.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono | Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story

Recorded April 26, 2021 - In conversation with Tamala Edwards, anchor, 6ABC Action News Morning Edition

A "hero on the left" (Washington Post) for her vocal support of progressive legislation and issues, Mazie K. Hirono is the only immigrant and the first Asian American woman in the United States Senate. Hawaii’s junior Senator since 2013, she formerly served the Aloha State in the U.S. House of Representatives, as its Lieutenant Governor, and as a State Representative. At the age of seven, Senator Hirono emigrated with her mother and brother from rural Japan aboard the President Cleveland and crossed the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. Charting her journey from a single room in a Honolulu boarding house to the Washington, D.C. halls of power, Heart of Fire is Senator Hirono’s story of resilience, speaking truth to power, and her hard-fought advocacy for the most vulnerable Americans.

Viet Thanh Nguyen | The Sympathizer

Recorded April 19, 2016

"A frenzied, abrasive, attention-grabbing" (Wall Street Journal) debut novel, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer is the story of a South Vietnamese army captain who emigrates to Los Angeles in 1975 at the end of the war. Through his secret observations and reports on his fellow military exiles to the Viet Cong, the extreme politics, loyalties, and legacies of the Vietnam War are exposed and dissected. Nguyen has also written Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, a nonfiction companion to The Sympathizer, and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. He has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and received residencies and grants from the Luce Foundation, the Warhol Foundation, and the Huntington Library, among many others. 

Susan Choi | Trust Exercise with Jacqueline Woodson | Red at the Bone

Recorded May 7, 2020

Winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, Trust Exercise follows a star-crossed suburban teen romance in a 1980s performing arts high school. Susan Choi’s novels are known for excavating the hidden corners of the human heart and acclaimed for their "nuance, psychological acuity, and pitch-perfect writing" (Los Angeles Times). Her books include the Asian American Literary Award-winning The Foreign StudentAmerican Woman, a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize; A Person of Interest, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award; and My Education, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction. A creative writing teacher at Yale, Choi has earned Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships.

The author of nearly 30 books for young people and adults, Jacqueline Woodson has won three Newbery Honors, a Coretta Scott King Award, three Coretta Scott King Honors, and the 2014 National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming, a poetry collection about her upbringing in New York and South Carolina amidst the vestiges of Jim Crow. Her other books include After Tupac and D FosterFeathers, and Another Brooklyn, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Woodson’s latest novel, "a universal American tale of striving, failing, then trying again" (Time), addresses a bevy of societal issues through the intergenerational saga of a family striving to escape the tug of history.

Amelia Pang | Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods

Recorded February 23, 2021 - In conversation with Tracey Matisak, award-winning broadcaster and journalist

In 2017, Amelia Pang earned the first place award in investigative journalism from the LA Press Club for her undercover exposé on the exploitation of immigrants smuggled into America to work in Chinese restaurants. Covering topics such as sexual violence on Native American reservations, economic hardships for immigrant Americans, and organic import fraud, her writing has appeared in publications such as The New Republic and Mother Jones. Her debut book, Made In China, tells the true story of a Chinese political prisoner and forced laborer’s desperate missive, while also revealing the larger story of how a vast array of products come from brutal slave labor camps.

Ha Jin | The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po)

Recorded January 17, 2019 - In conversation with Carlin Romano, Critic-at-Large, The Chronicle of Higher Education, former literary critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and author of America the Philosophical

Celebrated internationally for a prolific, "achingly beautiful" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) body of work across a variety of genres, Chinese émigré Ha Jin is the author of a score of novels, volumes of poetry, story collections, and essays. His many honors include the National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Jin’s books include Waiting, Under the Red Flag, and War Trash. The Banished Immortal is a biography of the 8th-century, Tang Dynasty poet whose verses remain an intrinsic element of Chinese language and culture.

Anchee Min | Pearl of China

Recorded April 20, 2010

Praised for her lyrical writing and historical knowledge, Anchee Min is the author of the bestselling memoir Red Azalea. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China, Min spent time in a labor camp and was chosen for a lead role in a propagandist movie before the Mao communist regime collapsed. The New York Times Book Review said that her account of that time exists as "a powerful political, as well as literary, statement." Min has since written five other works of historical fiction, among them Becoming Madame Mao and Empress Orchid. Her new novel, Pearl of China, is an intimate portrayal of Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck, exploring the fateful friendship between the writer and a young Chinese woman.

Morimoto | Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking

Recorded November 9, 2016

Acclaimed for creating cuisine that seamlessly blends Western ingredients with those of his native Japan, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is one of the culinary world’s brightest stars. After working his way up to the position of head chef of the elite New York eatery Nobu, Morimoto opened his namesake establishment in Philadelphia in 2001. He has since opened restaurants in New York, Mumbai, Napa, and Waikiki, among many other far-flung locations. In Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, Morimoto demystifies his country’s cuisine through easily accessible and adaptable recipes built on common ingredients mixed with, of course, his signature irreverent twists.

Maxine Hong Kingston | I Love a Broad Margin to My Life

Recorded February 3, 2011

Published in 1976, Maxine Hong Kingston's first book, The Woman Warrior, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and made her a literary celebrity at age 36. A recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and the National Humanities Medal, conferred by President Clinton, Kingston is the author of the National Book Award winner China MenTripmaster Monkey, and The Fifth Book of Peace. With I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, Kingston reflects on aging as she turns 65—sharing her tonic wisdom and revealing her personal insights on life as a writer, peace activist, teacher, and mother.

For more engaging and thought-provoking discussions with authors like the ones above, visit our Author Events schedule.

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