“Hopeful, honest, and bitterly funny, Julia Lee offers a captivating story of teaching and learning, listening and speaking out, how we distinguish who we’re supposed to be from who we might become.” —Hua Hsu, author of Stay True

ulia ia Lee is a Korean American writer, scholar, and teacher. She is the author of Our Gang: A Racial History of The Little Rascals and The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel, as well as the novel, By The Book, which was published under the pen name Julia Sonneborn. She is an associate professor of English at Loyola Marymount University, where she teaches Black and Asian American literature. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.

Her newest book is Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America. In the vein of Eloquent Rage and Minor Feelings, it’s a passionate, no-holds-barred memoir about the Asian American experience in a nation defined by racial stratification. With prose by turns scathing and heart-wrenching, Julia Lee lays bare the complex disorientation and shame that stems from this country’s imposed racial hierarchy to argue that Asian Americans must leverage their liminality for lasting social change alongside Black and brown communities.

By the Book: A Novel

Gallery Books |
Fiction

An English professor struggling for tenure discovers that her ex-fiancé has just become the president of her college—and her new boss—in this whip-smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion.

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.

Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Funny, smart, and full of heart, this modern ode to Jane Austen’s classic explores what happens when we run into the demons of our past…and when they turn out not to be so bad, after all.

Our Gang: A Racial History of The Little Rascals

University of Minnesota Press |
Historical Nonfiction

It was the age of Jim Crow, riddled with racial violence and unrest. But in the world of Our Gang, black and white children happily played and made mischief together. They even had their own black and white version of the KKK, the Cluck Cluck Klams—and the public loved it.

The story of race and Our Gang, or The Little Rascals, is rife with the contradictions and aspirations of the sharply conflicted, changing American society that was its theater. Exposing these connections for the first time, Julia Lee shows us how much this series, from the first silent shorts in 1922 to its television revival in the 1950s, reveals about black and white American culture—on either side of the silver screen. Behind the scenes, we find unconventional men like Hal Roach and his gag writers, whose Rascals tapped into powerful American myths about race and childhood. We meet the four black stars of the series—Ernie “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, Allen “Farina” Hoskins, Matthew “Stymie” Beard, and Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas—the gang within the Gang, whose personal histories Lee pursues through the passing years and shifting political landscape.

In their checkered lives, and in the tumultuous life of the series, we discover an unexplored story of America, the messy, multiracial nation that found in Our Gang a comic avatar, a slapstick version of democracy itself.

The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel

Oxford University Press |
Historical Nonfiction

Conceived as a literary form to aggressively publicize the abolitionist cause in the United States, the African American slave narrative remains a powerful and illuminating demonstration of America’s dark history. Yet the genre’s impact extended far beyond the borders of the U.S. In a period when few books sold more than five hundred copies, slave narratives sold in the tens of thousands, providing British readers vivid accounts of the violence and privation experienced by American slaves. Eloquent, bracing narratives by Frederick Douglass, William Box Brown, Solomon Northrop, and others enjoyed unprecedented popularity, captivating audiences that included activists, journalists, and some of the era’s greatest novelists.

The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel investigates the shaping influence of the American slave narrative on the Victorian novel in the years between the British Abolition Act and the American Emancipation Proclamation. The book argues that Charlotte Bront , W. M. Thackeray, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, and Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson integrated into their works generic elements of the slave narrative-from the emphasis on literacy as a tool of liberation, to the teleological journey from slavery to freedom, to the ethics of resistance over submission. It contends that Victorian novelists used these tropes in an attempt to access the slave narrative’s paradigm of resistance, illuminate the transnational dimension of slavery, and articulate Britain’s role in the global community. Through a deft use of disparate sources, Lee reveals how the slave narrative becomes part of the textual network of the English novel, making visible how black literary, as well as
economic, production contributed to English culture.

Lucidly written, richly researched, and cogently argued, Julia Sun-Joo Lee’s insightful monograph makes an invaluable contribution to scholars of American literary history, African American literature, and the Victorian novel, in addition to highlighting the vibrant transatlantic exchange of ideas that illuminated literatures on both sides of the Atlantic during the nineteenth century.

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A Career Talk for Young People

30-minute talk + Q&A about my career as a writer and teacher of color

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Storytelling: A workshop for students

How to craft your life into a narrative (critical and creative writing)

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Growing Up Asian in Black and White America

A talk about Asian American history, white supremacy, and the fight for racial justice

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Poetry is Not a Luxury

A talk about why literature is integral to the fight for racial justice

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How to Talk about Race

For parents, teachers and librarians

A talk from the perspective of an educator who teaches Black and Asian American literature

Julia’s Writing and Essays

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Associate Professor of English | Loyola Marymount University

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