763. Michelle Kuo and Her “Reading with Patrick”/2020/10

Michelle Kuo and Her “Reading with Patrick”

Michelle Kuo was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to immigrants from Taiwan. She attended public schools from kindergarten through high school, and graduated with a degree in Social Studies and Gender Studies at Harvard College. In 2004, she joined Teach for America and moved to the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Michelle taught English at an alternative school for kids who were expelled from other schools.

At Harvard Law School, Michelle worked as a student attorney at the Criminal Justice Institute, a domestic violence and family mediation clinic, and the Education Law Clinic/Trauma Policy Learning Initiative, as well as a law clerk at The Door and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. A Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, Michelle received the National Clinical Association’s award for her advocacy of children with special needs.

Following graduation, Michelle returned to rural Arkansas, working as a tutor in a county jail. This experience forms the heart of her book, READING WITH PATRICK, which explores racism, incarceration, and education in the Mississippi Delta. The book has been adopted by community reads and first-year university programs across the country, including the Yale Prison Education Initiative, the University of Iowa, Washtenaw Reads, Saint Michael’s College, and Asian American reading groups.

Michelle then worked as an immigrants’ rights lawyer at Centro Legal de la Raza, located in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California. She advocated for tenants facing evictions, workers stiffed out of their wages, and families facing deportation. Supported by a Skadden Fellowship, Michelle’s clients included day laborers, restaurant workers, and domestic workers.

Michelle clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan at the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit. Among the troubling cases that she worked on was U.S. v. Preston, in which the police coerced a confession from an 18 year old with severe disabilities who lived on a Native American reservation.

Michelle’s experiences working in incarcerated spaces have shaped her desire to help build a world without prison and detention. She has taught courses at San Quentin through the Prison University Project (the only college-degree granting program at a state prison in California), where she was inspired by the intellect, wisdom, and motivation of her students. Michelle has also volunteered at RAICES, a leading immigrants’ rights organization, preparing detained migrants for interviews with asylum officers.

Currently, Michelle’s research and teaching focus on social movements in racial and economic justice, incarceration and detention, restorative justice, and prison abolition. Michelle works closely with students on issues of social justice at the American University of Paris, where she is Associate Professor in the History, Law, and Society program. Along with Hannah Davis Taieb and Albert Wu (her husband, a historian of Europe and East Asia), Michelle designed a course that brought together traditional college students and incarcerated people at a local prison. Michelle and Albert have also designed the course “Practicing Democracy in Taiwan,” in which students travel to Taiwan and learn from local activists, congressional members, indigenous students and groups, and public historians on transitional justice. Most recently, they taught and designed a course on refugee justice, which offered students a historical and legal perspective on migration, asylum law, and detention. The course culminated in intensive work at a detention center in Texas. Under the supervision of RAICES, students helped detained people apply for asylum.

This year, Michelle, working with Hannah Taieb and Kassia Aleksic, started a nonprofit organization that works to create dialogue and transformation among formerly incarcerated people across the world.

Michelle writes for public outlets, including the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, Public Books, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Point, and other publications.

READING WITH PATRICK is Michelle’s first book. The runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice, it has been translated into Japanese and Mandarin, and released in the United Kingdom, Taiwan, China (forthcoming), and Japan. As Pulitzer-Prize winning James Forman, Jr. and Arthur Evenchik write in The Atlantic“Impassioned writing and hard-earned wisdom set the book apart … In all of the literature addressing education, race, poverty, and criminal justice, there has been nothing quite like Reading with Patrick.”


Source from Michelle Kuo https://www.michellekuo.net/

Posted in 10/2020