Featured Speakers

Kiese Laymon


Bestselling Author • Social Critic • Essayist

“Kiese Laymon is a star in the American literary firmament, with a voice that is courageous, honest, loving, and singularly beautiful.”
—Martha Anne Toll, NPR
Laymon’s bestselling memoir, Heavy: An American Memoir, was awarded the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose.

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Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan


Novelist • Essayist

Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan writes richly imagined and impeccably researched stories that illuminate complicated truths about race and belonging. “One of our sharpest and deepest writers of historical fiction,” according to Entertainment Weekly, she is only the third writer to twice win the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary award.

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John Irving

John Irving


National Book Award Winner • Bestselling Author • Screenwriter

John Irving is an award-winning American novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of The World According to Garp (1978), The Cider House Rules (1985), A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), and A Widow for One Year (1998).

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Lisa See

Lisa See


Bestselling Author • Novelist • Memoirist

In her many beloved New York Times bestsellers, including Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Peony in Love, Shanghai GirlsDreams of Joy, China Dolls, and The Island of Sea Women, Lisa See brilliantly illuminates the strong bonds between women, romantic love, and love of country.

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Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami


Novelist • Author • Essayist

Laila Lalami was born and raised in Morocco, a place whose past and present permeate her writing. A novelist, short story writer, and essayist, Lalami is a unique and confident voice in the conversations about race and immigration that increasingly occupy our national attention. Her next novel, The Other Americans (March 2019) is about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant in a small California town.

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Mitchell S. Jackson

Mitchell S. Jackson


Author • Filmmaker

TED Fellow Mitchell S. Jackson is the author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (March 2019). This hybrid—part essay, part memoir, part history—uses stories of Jackson’s family and friends to speak to larger issues in American culture, including the racial history of Oregon, whiteness in America, the prison system, drug addiction, criminality, sex work, violence, and broken families.

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Alex Kotlowitz

Alex Kotlowitz


Bestselling Author • Journalist • Documentary Filmmaker

Bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz is recognized for his unflinching portrayals of race and poverty in America. In his latest, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, Kotlowitz returns to some of Chicago’s most turbulent neighborhoods to offer a spellbinding collection of intimate profiles of people and communities touched by gun violence.

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Clive Thompson

Clive Thompson


Journalist • Author • Tech Industry Expert

Clive Thompson is a longtime contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a columnist for Wired, and the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better and Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World.

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Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer


Bestselling Author • Essayist • Travel Writer

With his keen-eyed observations, bestselling writer Pico Iyer is a chronicler of the desire to seek new frontiers and view familiar terrain through fresh eyes. “Arguably the world’s greatest living travel writer,” according to Outside magazine, he is the author of two novels and several works of nonfiction, including the new Autumn Light and enduring favorites as The Lady and the Monk and The Global Soul.

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Speakers by Subject

New & Noteworthy

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago

Praise for An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago

An American Summer is at turns shocking, heart-rending, and deeply moving. But it is always important. This is about the soul of our country.

Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

The Other Americans

Praise for The Other Americans

This deftly constructed account of a crime and its consequences shows up, in its quiet way, the pressures under which ordinary Americans of Muslim background have labored since the events of 9/11.

J. M. Coetzee

Survival Math

Praise for Survival Math

Survival Math is the best memoir I’ve read in ages. With honesty, insight, and a tremendous amount of heart, Mitchell S. Jackson takes us deep into the stories that made, ruined, and saved him. It’s intimate and wise; poignant and compassionate; redemptive and raw.

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

The Island of Sea Women

Praise for The Island of Sea Women

A stupendous multigenerational family saga… A mesmerizing achievement.

Booklist, starred review