After twelve years in the making, Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese who Fled Mao’s Revolution is out! Helen’s latest book traces the lives of emigrants and refugees from another cataclysmic time in history that has striking parallels to the difficulties facing migrants today. She interviewed more than 100 survivors of that exodus and countless others. Helen’s essay in the New York Times reveals her mother’s secret that inspired her to write this book.
In 2000, her first book was published: Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, a finalist for the prestigious Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. She also authored the story of Wen Ho Lee in My Country Versus Me, about the Los Alamos scientist who was falsely accused of being a spy for China in the “worst case since the Rosenbergs.” She was Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine and a founding board co-chair of the Women’s Media Center. She has been active in many non-profit organizations, including Equality Now, AAJA, and KQED. Her ground-breaking articles, essays and reviews have appeared in many publications, books and anthologies, receiving numerous awards.
The daughter of immigrants from China, Helen has been outspoken on issues ranging from human rights and peace to women’s rights and countering hate violence and homophobia. She is featured in the Academy Award nominated documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin? and was profiled in Bill Moyers’ PBS series, Becoming American: The Chinese Experience. In 2008 Helen was a Torchbearer in San Francisco for the Beijing Olympics amid great controversy; in 2010, she was a witness in the federal marriage equality case decided by the US Supreme Court.
Helen received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of San Francisco and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the City University of New York Law School for bringing important matters of law and civil rights into public view. She is a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of Princeton University’s first coeducational class. She attended medical school but quit after completing two years, then went to work as a construction laborer, an autoworker, and a community organizer, after which she discovered her life’s work as a writer.
Articles, Publications, and Appearances
Television and Documentaries
Who Killed Vincent Chin?
Becoming American: The Chinese Experience
Targeting Asians and Asian Americans will make it harder to stop covid-19 (Washington Post, April 2, 2020)
My Mother’s Secrets (The New York Times, January 19, 2019)