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Home » The Healing Power of Reading: Michelle Kuo (Full Transcript)

The Healing Power of Reading: Michelle Kuo (Full Transcript)

Michelle Kuo at TED Talks

Michelle Kuo is the author of Reading with Patrick, a memoir of her literary friendship with a student in a small town in the Mississippi Delta.  She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and had worked as an immigrants’ rights lawyer in the Fruitvale District of Oakland, California.

Following is the full transcript of her TED Talk titled “The Healing Power of Reading”. This talk was given at a TEDxTaipei event in September 2018.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


I want to talk today about how reading can change our lives and about the limits of that change.

I want to talk to you about how reading can give us a shareable world of powerful human connection but also about how that connection is always partial, how reading is ultimately a lonely idiosyncratic undertaking.

The writer who changed my life was the great African American novelist James Baldwin. When I was growing up in Western Michigan in the 1980s, there weren’t many Asian American writers interested in social change. And so I think I turned to James Baldwin as a way to fill this void, as a way to feel racially conscious.

But perhaps because I knew I wasn’t myself African American, I also felt challenged and indicted by his words, especially these words.

“There are liberals who have all the proper attitudes but no real convictions. When the chips are down and you somehow expect them to deliver they’re somehow not there.”

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