Talking Volumes: A conversation with author Chang-rae Lee

Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Chang-rae Lee’s past works have incorporated issues of race, class and immigration in the United States.

His latest novel, “My Year Abroad,” follows Tiller Bardmon, a 20-year-old suburbanite who is, at best, slightly tethered to his own Asian American identity. In fact, he describes himself as a “semi-diasporic, post colonial indeterminate.”

Lee said it's the experiences outside our comfort zones that open our eyes to the world — and to ourselves.

“When I was out of the context of my friends or at school where everyone knew me, they just see me as that ‘Chinese kid.’ They don’t even know I’m Korean,” he said. “But it made me conscious of — who I am is provisional.”

Besides being an author, Lee also teaches writing at Stanford University.

MPR News guest host Brandt Williams interviewed Lee as part of MPR and the Star Tribune’s Talking Volumes: Talking Race series.

Editor’s note (March 25, 2021): Brandt Williams and Chang-rae Lee’s conversation was recorded before the mass shooting in Atlanta on March 16, 2021. The discussions since then about anti-Asian American violence and racism would have been included in this conversation had it happened after that event.

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