Erika Lee

Historian, Author, Teacher



One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she is a Regents Professor and Director of the Immigration History Research Center. The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, Lee is the recipient of multiple fellowships and awards, including the Carnegie Fellowship, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She is an active public intellectual, serves as the Vice President of the Organization of American Historians, and is the author of four award-winning books including At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (University of North Carolina Press, 2003), Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (co-authored with Judy Yung, Oxford University Press, 2010), and The Making of Asian America: A History (Simon & Schuster, 2015; Chinese version, 2019.) Called “sweeping,” “comprehensive,” and “fascinating” by the New York Times and a “long overdue stirring chronicle” by the LA Times, The Making of Asian America was the recipient of the 2015 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature from the American Library Association, an “Editor’s Choice” by the New York Times, and was named to the Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 list by Kirkus Reviews. Lee’s new book is America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (Basic Books, 2019). Called “unflinching and powerful” by Carol Anderson (author of White Rage) and “essential reading” by Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be an Antiracist), America for Americans won the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the Richard Frisbie Honored Book Award for Nonfiction. It was also a finalist for the Ralph Waldo Emerson award and the Minnesota Nonfiction Book Award and was named to best books lists by Time, USA Today, and Ms. Magazine. It was highlighted by the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the New York Public Library as one of the most important books illuminating the Trump era and informing essential issues in the 2020 election. It has been excerpted in The Atlantic and profiled in The New Yorker. Op-eds based on the book appeared in Time and the Washington Post. Lee regularly appears in the media, including featured appearances in PBS’s “Asian Americans” and “The Chinese Exclusion Act,” in the History Channel’s “America: The Promised Land,” and Bill Moyer’s “Chinese in America.” She has been interviewed by CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, PBS NewsHour, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, Code Switch, 1A, Weekend Edition, Public Radio International’s The World, the BBC, ABC News, NBC News, the Guardian, CSPAN, Star Tribune, Beijing News, and the Japan Times. Her opinion pieces have been published in Time, the New York Daily News, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.

TOPICS: Race, Immigration, History 

In the News

Washington Post

Race in American: History Matters with Erika Lee & Helen Zia

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Los Angeles Times

Fear of coronavirus fuels racist sentiment targeting Asians

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NBC News

Asian Americans report over 650 racist acts over last week, new data says

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