1. Julie Otsuka
Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. As an undergraduate, Otsuka studied art and went on to be a painter before returning to school to earn her MFA. Part of her MFA thesis became the first two chapters of what would eventually be her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine. She is known for her historical fiction novels which feature characters of Japanese descent.
Min Jin Lee was born in South Korea and immigrated to New York City with her family when she was seven years old. She majored in history at Yale College, where she also was the recipient of the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction. Lee worked as a lawyer for two years before focusing on writing full time. She is best known for her novel Pachinko, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Ocean Vuong was born in Saigon, Vietnam and raised in Connecticut. He graduated with a BA in Nineteenth Century American Literature and received his MFA in Poetry from New York University. In 2014, Vuong was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He received a Whiting Award in 2016 and a MacArthur fellowship in 2019.
Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London to Indian immigrants and moved with her family to Rhode Island when she was three years old. She graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Barnard College and obtained three master’s degrees and a doctorate from Boston University. Lahiri wrote and published many short stories while in graduate school; some of these stories can be found in her first story collection Interpreter of Maladies, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.
Gene Luen Yang was born and raised in California. Yang had a passion for drawing from an early age and began making comics in the fifth grade. He got his degree in computer science and worked in the field for two years before becoming a teacher. As a teacher, he worked on his comics at night and published his first graphic novel, American Born Chinese, in 2006. His graphic novel was the first graphic novel to win the Michael L. Printz award for young adult literature.
Jenny Han was born and raised in Virginia to Korean immigrant parents. She worked as a librarian before earning her MFA in creative writing. She has written books for middle grade and young adult readers and is best known for her To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy. Netflix adapted all three novels into full-length movies, for which she was the executive producer.
Weike Wang was born in China and lived in Australia and Canada before permanently relocating to the United States at 11 years old. She earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a doctorate in public health before turning her attention to writing. She received her MFA from Boston University and, since then, her fiction has been published in numerous literary magazines. Her first novel debuted in 2017.
Khaled Hosseini was born in Afghanistan to a diplomat father. He and his family sought asylum in the United States in 1980 during the Soviet invasion and he later became a naturalized citizen. He earned a medical degree in 1993 and practiced medicine until 2004. Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, in 2001 while practicing as an internist. He was able to retire from medicine and write full time thanks to the success of his novel.
Hanya Yanagihara was born in California and moved around a lot as a child due to her father’s job. She landed in New York after college, where she worked as a publicist before writing and editing for a magazine. She continues to make a name for herself in the world of journalism and writes on the side.
Grace Lin was born and raised in upstate New York. She received a BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and published her first book in 1999. She has since published over two dozen books for children and hosts two podcasts—Book Friends Forever and Kids Ask Authors.