Asian American Studies Lecture Series: Min Jin Lee and Parul Sehgal

Wed, Apr 29, 2020, 4:30 pm
Speaker(s): 
Sponsor(s): 
Program in American Studies
Lewis Center for the Arts
Department of English
Program in Journalism

Celebrating New Asian American Writing

Min Jin Lee

Photo of Min Jin Lee. Photo by Elena Seibert

Min Jin Lee. Photo by Elena Seibert

Min Jin Lee is a recipient of fellowships in fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation (2018), the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard (2018-2019), and the New York Foundation for the Arts (2000). Her novel Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and among The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2017. A New York Times Best Seller, Pachinko was also among the Top 10 Books of the Year for the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the New York Public Library. Pachinko was a selection for “Now Read This,” the joint book club of PBS NewsHour and The New York Times. It was on over 75 best books of the year lists, including lists from NPR, PBS, and CNN. Pachinko will be translated into 29 languages. In 2019, Apple ordered to series a television adaptation of Pachinko, and President Barack Obama selected Pachinko for his recommended reading list, calling it, “a powerful story about resilience and compassion.”

Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (2007) was among the Top 10 Books of the Year for The Times of London, NPR’s Fresh Air, USA Today, and was a national bestseller. In 2019, Free Food for Millionaires was a finalist for One Book, One New York, a city-wide reading program. Lee’s writings have appeared in The New Yorker, NPR’s Selected Shorts, One Story, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, The Times of London, and Wall Street Journal. She served three consecutive seasons as a Morning Forum columnist of The Chosun Ilbo of South Korea. In 2018, Lee was named as an Adweek Creative 100 for being one of the “10 Writers and Editors Who Are Changing the National Conversation” and a Frederick Douglass 200. In 2019, Lee was inducted in the New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame. She received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Monmouth College. She will be a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College from 2019-22. She serves as a trustee of PEN America and as a director of the Authors Guild.

Parul Sehgal

Photo of Parul Sehgal. Photo courtesy of Parul Sehgal

Parul Sehgal. Photo courtesy of Parul Sehgal

Parul Sehgal is a book critic at The New York Times. She came to The Times in 2012. Her writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Bookforum, The New Yorker and Slate, among other publications. In 2010 she was awarded the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, and her TED talk on literature and envy has been viewed more than two million times. Her nonfiction interests range from science and technology to philosophy and religion.

Sehgal grew up in Virginia, New Delhi, Manila, Montreal and Budapest. She studied at McGill University and received an MFA from Columbia University, where she has taught writing workshops and a master class on criticism. In an interview with Poets & Writers magazine, she described her early life as a reader: “My mother had a marvelous, idiosyncratic library — lots of André Gide, Jean Genet, and Oscar Wilde, lots of philosophy, and lots of Jackie Collins. But she was terribly strict, and the library was off-limits to us. Naturally my sister and I became the most frantic little book thieves; I must have spent the first decade of my life with a novel — and usually something massively inappropriate like Judy Blume’s Wifey or Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge — stuffed in the waistband of my pants.” Of criticism, she says simply, “I just got addicted to the form, its constraints and possibilities.”