Richard Blanco is the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work. He is the author of the memoirs The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey; the poetry chapbooks Matters of the Sea, One Today, and Boston Strong; the poetry collections Looking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; and a children’s book of his inaugural poem, “One Today,” illustrated by Dav Pilkey. With Ruth Behar, he recently co-created Bridges to/from Cuba: Lifting the Emotional Embargo, a blog providing a cultural and artistic platform for sharing the real lives and complex emotional histories of thousands of Cubans across the globe. Blanco’s many honors include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards. The Academy of American Poets named him its first Education Ambassador in 2015. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air. He has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island. He has continued to write occasional poems for organizations and events such as the re-opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana. Blanco shares his time between Bethel, ME and Boston, MA.
Janet Fitch was born in Los Angeles and grew up in a family of voracious readers. As an undergraduate at Reed College, Fitch had decided to become an historian, attracted to its powerful narratives, the scope of events, the colossal personalities, and the potency and breadth of its themes. But when she won a student exchange to Keele University in England, where her passion for Russian history led her, she awoke in the middle of the night on her twenty-first birthday with the revelation she wanted to write fiction.Janet currently teaches a graduate fiction seminar in the University of Southern California’s Master of Professional Writing program. She also edits fiction manuscripts privately, and lectures on special topics in fiction writing.
Carolyn L. Forché was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1950. She studied at Michigan State University and earned an MFA from Bowling Green State University. Forché is the author of four books of poetry: Blue Hour (2004); The Angel of History (1994), which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award; The Country Between Us (1982), which received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was the Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets; and Gathering the Tribes (1976). She is also the editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993). Her honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1992, she received the Charity Randall Citation from the International Poetry Forum. Carolyn Forché teaches in the MFA Program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
Judy Grahn is an internationally known poet, writer, and social theorist. Her work has won awards: an NEA Grant, an American Book Review award, an American Book Award, an American Library Award; a Lifetime Achievement Award (in Lesbian Letters), a Founding Foremothers of Women’s Spirituality Award. Triangle Publishers feature a “Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award”. Seattle Gay Day Parade of (199 was based on Judy’s book, Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds.
Lawson Fusao Inada is an emeritus professor of writing at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Inada is the author of five books: Legends from Camp, Drawing the Line, In This Great Land of Freedom, Just Into/Nations and Before the War. He is the editor of three important volumes, including the acclaimed Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese-American Internment Experience. On two previous occasions, in 1972 and 1985, Professor Inada won Poetry Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and his work has appeared in The Best American Poetry.
X. J. (Joseph Charles) Kennedy was born in Dover, New Jersey in 1929. After studying at Seton Hall, Columbia University, and the University of Michigan, Kennedy served four years in the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet as a journalist, and then attended the Sorbonne in Paris for one year in 1955. In the early 1970s, Kennedy published Counter/Measures; a magazine devoted to the use of traditional form in poetry. Kennedy’s first collection of poetry, Nude Descending a Staircase (1961), won the Lamont Poetry Selection. His other awards include a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the Bess Hokin Prize for Poetry magazine, and a Los Angeles Times Book prize. He is a former poetry editor of The Paris Review, and his poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, and The Hudson Review.
Gina Knox holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota. A former resident of the Pasadena area for over eighteen years, she still actively participates in community service since moving outside of the area. Gina is currently on the Board of Directors for the Pasadena Museum of California Art, participating on the Education Committee. She is on the Board of the Pasadena Art Alliance, which contributes grants for the arts. She is involved in the Yes, Virginia Fund, an organization that raises funds providing grants to local non-profit agencies in order to offer positive experiences for underprivileged children. She has served on the Board of the National Charity League as Recording Secretary, Vice President of Grade Level Advisors and, in 2004, as Chairman of the Debutante Ball. Gina has two children, a son and daughter, and currently resides in Malibu, CA with her husband.
Yusef Komunyakaa was born in 1947 in Bogalusa, Louisiana, where he was raised during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. He served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star. Komunyakaa’s honors include the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was elected a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 1999. He has taught at University of New Orleans, Indiana University, as a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. He lives in New York City where he is currently Distinguished Senior Poet in New York University’s graduate creative writing program.
Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, Li-Young Lee moved to America with his family to escape a dictatorial regime that had imprisoned his father for nineteen months. In his poetry, Lee often reflects upon his father’s experiences as Mao Tse-tung’s personal physician and as a Presbyterian minister in Pennsylvania, exploring the dramatic differences between that life and his own. Lee’s work is characterized by its fluidity—his poems slip gracefully between the physical and dream worlds—and its attention to the senses. Educated at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Arizona, and the State University of New York, Lee has published two books of poems, Rose (1986) and The City in Which I Love You (1990), as well as a prose memoir, The Winged Seed: A Remembrance (1995).
Ishmael Reed was born in 1938 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was raised in Buffalo, New York, and attended the University of New York at Buffalo. He is the author of several collections of poetry and numerous novels. Reed has also edited a number of anthologies. Among his honors and awards are the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, a Guggenheim Foundation Award, the Lewis Michaux Award, an American Civil Liberties award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the California Arts Council. Reed has lectured at numerous colleges and universities. He served as a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley for thirty-five years. Ishmael Reed lives in Oakland, California.
Deborah Schneider grew up in Chicago. After graduating from college, she moved to San Francisco where she co-founded a small press literary magazine, and was inspired to pursue a career in book publishing. She moved to New York in 1978 and worked for several years for the movie studios as a book scout and story editor. In 1981, seeking a less corporate environment, Deborah partnered with Jane Gelfman as an agent in the New York office of the venerable British Literary Agency, John Farquharson Ltd. Deborah began building her American client list and in 1992, she and Jane bought the agency and established Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, which continues to thrive today. Deborah represents a large variety of prominent and bestselling writers, across all categories of literary and commercial fiction and nonfiction. She is a member of her professional organization, The Association of Authors Representatives, and has served on their Board and on their Royalty Committee for twenty-five years.
Born in the US to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan failed her mother’s expectations that she become a doctor and concert pianist. She settled on writing fiction. Her novels are The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, and Saving Fish From Drowning, all New York Times bestsellers and the recipients of various awards. She is also the author of a memoir, two children’s books, and numerous articles for magazines, including the New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, and National Geographic. The National Endowment for the Arts has chosen The Joy Luck Club for its “Big Reads” program. Ms. Tan also served as the Literary Editor for the Los Angeles Times magazine, West.
Afaa Weaver is a poet, short story writer, editor, and alumnae professor of English at Simmons College in Boston. He is the author of twelve previous poetry collections, including The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005 and The Government of Nature. Weaver is the recipient of an NEA fellowship, a Pew fellowship, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Fulbright scholar appointment, among other honors. Despite the poverty and struggle of growing up in East Baltimore, Weaver has forged his life as a highly-awarded literary artist and now lives a life of faith, humility, grace, gratitude, and balance.
Karen Tei Yamashita teaches creative writing and Asian-American Literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Kresge College. She is a novelist, short story writer, playwright, and a member of Amerasia Journal editorial board since 1994. Her first novel, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990), was awarded the American Book Award and The Janet Heidinger Kafka Award. Her second novel, Brazil-Maru (1992), was named by the Village Voice as one of the 25 best books of that year. Her third novel, Tropic of Orange (1997), was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize. Her essays on literature and writing appear in diverse settings including A Japanese American Anthology (1975); Contact II Poetry Review (1986); and Chicago Review (1993).