Lisa Ko is an acclaimed Chinese American author and finalist for the 2018 PEN/Hemingway Award. Born in the boroughs of Queens, New York and raised in the suburbs of New Jersey, she is the first generation of her family to live in America. Though today she maintains a simple life in NYC, her days as a young adolescent were anything but easy. Growing up as the only Asian child within her community, Lisa struggled to adjust to life as a person of “color.” As a way of coping with the hardships of everyday living, Lisa Ko turned to writing and fiction as a source of escape. While much of her beginning work told the stories of white Americans, her exposure to Asian American writing prompted a change. She began to question why the stories of immigrants and those similar to her struggle were not being openly expressed in fictional writing. Thus, upon gaining her first taste of Asian American storytelling, Lisa started tailoring her work to reflect the lives of people similar to her.
Eventually, after receiving her B.A from Wesleyan College in Connecticut, Lisa moved to New York to further her career in writing. During her time working as a freelance editor, adjunct professor, and office secretary, Lisa Ko devoted eight and a half years to crafting her first novel The Leavers. She also co-created an Asian American magazine while living in the city of Los Angeles for five years.
In 2016, upon returning back to the East Coast and releasing the debut of her first novel The Leavers, Lisa won the award of PEN/Bellwether prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. After receiving high praise for her work, The Leavers was officially published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill in 2017. Today The Leavers continues to touch the lives of so many and maintain a major following in the literary world.
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Erika Memolo ’19