One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she holds the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, is Director of the Immigration History Research Center, and a Distinguished McKnight University Professor. The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, Lee grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the award-winning books At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 and Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (co-authored with Judy Yung), and The Making of Asian America: A History, recently published to wide acclaim. 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 is the recipient of the 2015 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature from the American Library Association. It was an “Editor’s Choice” by the New York Times and was named to the Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 list by Kirkus Reviews, the “10 Can’t-Miss History Books of 2015” by History Buffs, and the LA Times’ 2015 “Reading for the Season” list. It has been reviewed or featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, NBC News, National Public Radio, NBC News, The Economist, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, and many other media outlets.
Lee has been the recipient of numerous national awards, including best book awards from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, the Association for Asian American Studies, the American Librarians Association, and the Western Historical Association. She is a widely sought-after speaker around the U.S. and internationally. Her invited speaking engagements include over 115 keynote addresses and lectures at conferences, universities, museums, historical societies, public libraries, and community organizations such as the National Museum of American History, the National Archives, the New York Historical Society, the Cato Institute, the California Historical Society, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, Kyoto University, the University of Toronto, Portland Public Library, and a tour in Taiwan arranged by the U.S. State Department. She received the 2016 Pioneer Award from OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, the national advocacy and civil rights organization for Asian Pacific Americans, the 2015 Immigrant Heritage Award from the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and was named one of 25 “pioneering women making a difference in academia and beyond” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine in 2016. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two sons.