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Chang-Rae Lee

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Title: Chang-Rae Lee  
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Subject: Donald Duk, Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winners, Riverhead Books, People from Westchester County, New York, Oregon Book Award
Collection: 1965 Births, 20Th-Century American Novelists, 21St-Century American Novelists, American Male Novelists, American Novelists of Asian Descent, American Writers of Korean Descent, Guggenheim Fellows, Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award Winners, Living People, People from Princeton, New Jersey, People from Westchester County, New York, Phillips Exeter Academy Alumni, Princeton University Faculty, Rome Prize Winners, South Korean Emigrants to the United States, The New Yorker People, University of Oregon Alumni, Writers from New Jersey, Writers from New York, Writers from Oregon, Yale University Alumni
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Chang-Rae Lee

Chang-rae Lee
Chang-rae Lee speaks to a University of Michigan class about his new novel, On Such a Full Sea.
Born July 29, 1965
Occupation novelist
Nationality United States (naturalized)
Notable works Native Speaker; Aloft
Notable awards Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
Asian American Literary Awards
Spouse Michelle Branca
Chang-Rae Lee
Hangul 이창래
Hanja 李昌來
Revised Romanization I Chang-rae
McCune–Reischauer Yi Ch'ang-rae

Chang-rae Lee (born July 29, 1965) is a Korean American novelist and a professor of creative writing at Princeton University,[1] where he has served as the director of Princeton's Program in Creative Writing.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Major themes 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Lee was born in South Korea in 1965 to Young Yong and Inja Hong Lee. He emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 3 years old [2] to join his father, who was then a psychiatric resident and later established a successful practice in Westchester County, New York.[3] In a 1999 interview with Ferdinand M. De Leon, Lee described his childhood as "a standard suburban American upbringing," in which he attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, before earning a B.A. in English at Yale University in 1987.[3] After working as an equities analyst on Wall Street for a year, he enrolled at the University of Oregon. With the manuscript for Native Speaker as his thesis, he received a master of fine arts degree in writing in 1993 and became an assistant professor of creative writing at the university. On 19 June 1993 Lee married architect Michelle Branca, with whom he has two daughters.[3] The success of his debut novel, Native Speaker, led Lee to move to Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he was hired to direct and teach in the prestigious creative-writing program.[3]


Lee's first novel, Native Speaker (1995), won numerous awards including the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.[1] The novel centers around a Korean American industrial spy, explores themes of alienation and betrayal as felt or perpetrated by immigrants and first-generation citizens, and played out in local politics.[2] In 1999, he published his second novel, A Gesture Life. This elaborated on his themes of identity and assimilation through the narrative of an elderly Japanese-American doctor who remembers treating Korean comfort women during World War II.[4] For this book, Lee received the Asian American Literary Award.[5] His 2004 novel Aloft received mixed notices from the critics and featured Lee's first protagonist who is not Asian American, but a disengaged and isolated Italian-American suburbanite forced to deal with his world.[6] It received the 2006 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Adult Fiction category.[7] His 2010 novel The Surrendered won the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a nominated finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[8] Lee's most recent novel, On Such A Full Sea (2014) is set in a dystopian future version of the American city of Baltimore, Maryland called B-Mor where the main character, Fan, is a Chinese-American laborer working as a diver in a fish farm.[9] It was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award.[10]

Major themes

Asian American authors have explored issues central to the Asian American experience: the legacy of the past; the encounter of diverse cultures; the challenges of racism, discrimination, and exclusion; and the dreams achieved and dreams deferred of an immigrant nation. In the process of developing and defining itself, then, Asian American literature speaks to the very heart of what it means to be American. The authors of this literature above all concern themselves with identity, with the question of becoming and being American, of being accepted, not “foreign.” [11] Lee's writings has addressed these questions of identity, exile and diaspora, assimilation, and alienation since the first wave of Asian immigrants arrived on American shores in the mid nineteenth century.[3]




  • Lee, Chang-Rae (Summer 1993). "The Faintest Echo of Our Language".  
  • Lee, Chang-Rae (December 3, 2012). "Gut Course: Manhattan".  


  1. ^ a b Minzesheimer, Bob (March 16, 2010). "Chang-rae Lee's 'Surrendered': Unrelentingly sad yet lovely". USA Today. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Garner, Dwight (September 5, 1999). "Interview: Adopted Voice". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Wu, Yung-Hsing. "Chang-rae Lee." Asian American Writers. Ed. Deborah L. Madsen. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 312. Literature Resource Center. Web. 19 Apr. 2014.
  4. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (August 31, 1999). A Gesture Life': Fitting In Perfectly on the Outside, but Lost Within"'". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  5. ^ The Asian American Writers' Workshop - Awards
  6. ^ Dean, Tamsin (June 21, 2004). "High and dry". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  7. ^ APALA Past Award Winners
  8. ^ The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winners Fiction
  9. ^ Leyshon, Cressida (January 7, 2014). The Chorus of "We": An Interview With Chang-rae Lee"'". The New Yorker. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  10. ^ "National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for Publishing Year 2014".  
  11. ^ Matibag, E.(2010). Asian american art and literature. In Encyclopedia of American Studies. Retrieved from
  12. ^  

External links

  • "Mute in an English-Only World", an essay by Lee in the anthology Dream Me Home Safely: Writers on Growing Up in America, at Google Books
  • Interview with Lee at Words on a Wire
  • [2] KGNU Claudia Cragg radio interview with Chang-Rae Lee, March 2011, on 'The Surrendered'.
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