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Radical Worlds, Diasporic Lexicons: A Dialogue with Xiaolu Guo and Jay Gao

General Programming

dateSeptember 18, 2023 timeMonday, 6:15pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Institute for Ideas and Imagination
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • Image Credit/Caption: Photo credit: Vase with Landscape and Dinosaurs © 2014, Steven Young Lee
Vase with Landscape and Dinosaurs by Steven Young Lee, white and blue vase with large hole in the side

Join acclaimed Chinese-British writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo and Chinese-Scottish poet Jay Gao in a conversation on Radical: A Life of My Own. In Guo’s new memoir, language and translation are the starting points that ask how a diasporic artist might live authentically and radically in the 21st century.

Guo and Gao will discuss how their personal lexicons of art can help redefine entanglements across transnational borders and boundaries. Both writers will explore how their experiences of living in the USA, as well as in the UK, have shaped their understanding of nationality, Chineseness, belonging, lineage, and creative freedom. In the belief that literature and writing can help us make better sense of our increasingly globalized and diasporic world, this event will critically engage with the questions of: What does it mean to be rooted? What does it mean to write radically?

This event will be moderated by Ana Paulina Lee.


Jay Gao is a poet from Edinburgh, Scotland. His debut poetry collection Imperium (Carcanet, 2022) is a winner of an Eric Gregory Award and a Somerset Maugham Award. He earned his MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University. A Contributing Editor at The White Review and a reader for Poetry magazine, he currently lives in New York, where he is a PhD student in English at Columbia University researching experimental poetics and race.

Xiaolu Guo is a Chinese British novelist, memoirist, and filmmaker. Her novels include A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, and I Am China. Her memoir Nine Continents won the National Book Critics Circle Award 2017. Her recent novel A Lover’s Discourse, was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2020 and longlisted for the Orwell Prize. Radical, A Life of My Own is published by Grove 2023. Named as a Granta’s Best of Young British Novelist in 2013, she also directed a dozen films, including How Is Your Fish Today (Sundance Official Selection) and UFO In Her Eyes (TIFF). Her feature She, A Chinese received the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno Festival 2009. Her documentary We Went to Wonderland was in the Official Selection of ND/NF at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Once Upon A Time Proletarian was selected for the Horizon Section at Venice Film Festival 2009. She had her film retrospectives at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 2019, Cinematheque Switzerland in 2011, and Greek Film Archive in Athens in 2018. She was an inaugural fellow of the Columbia Institute of Ideas and Imagination in Paris in 2018 and a visiting professor at Columbia University and Baruch College in New York. Guo is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


Ana Paulina Lee is an associate professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures. Lee's research and teaching interests focus on race, gender, nation, and citizenship; slavery and abolition, postcolonial studies; subaltern studies; literary theory; visual culture and performance, and cultural studies with a focus on 19th and 20th century Brazil and Portuguese-speaking Asian countries.

Photo credit: Vase with Landscape and Dinosaurs © 2014, Steven Young Lee