Michelle Kuo

Assistant Professor, Program Coordinator for History, Law & Society

  • Department: History
  • Graduate Program(s): 
    International Affairs
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Michelle Kuo joined the American University of Paris in 2015 and teaches in its History, Law, and Society program. Her book, Reading with Patrick, was published by Random House in 2017. A mix of memoir, history, and law, Reading with Patrick is an intimate story that explores education, inequality, and criminal justice in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta. Lauded by Bill Moyers and Wes Moore, Reading with Patrick was listed as one of the best books of the summer by Saturday Evening Post, O Magazine, and Christian Science Monitor, featured in the New York Times, and praised for its complex exploration of literacy in the Times Literary Supplement.

Prior to teaching to AUP, Michelle joined Teach for America as an English teacher in the Arkansas/Mississippi Delta corps. She taught at an alternative school for students who had been expelled from other schools in Helena, Arkansas. Michelle also served as an immigrants’ rights attorney and Skadden Fellow at Centro Legal de la Raza, a nonprofit providing legal aid and deportation defense in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California. At Centro Legal de la Raza, Michelle advocated for tenants facing evictions and workers denied wages. Her clients included day laborers, restaurant workers, gardeners, nannies, and home care workers. Michelle also clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan at the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit and volunteered at the Prison University Project, the only college-degree granting program in a California state prison.


Shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice, 2017.

The American University of Paris Board of Trustees Distinguished Teaching Award. 2015-16. Awarded by the Board of Trustees for excellence in teaching.      

Skadden Fellow, 2009. Awarded to support a two-year fellowship in direct legal services for low-income people.

Certificate of Distinction, Derek Bok Center Teaching, 2009. Awarded to teaching fellows at Harvard College for excellent teaching.

Outstanding Clinical Student, 2008. Awarded by the national Clinical Legal Education Association for excellence.

Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, 2007. Awarded nationally to 30 New American graduate students.

Susan Lehmann Teaching Award, Finalist, 2005. Awarded nationally by Teach for America for exceptional teaching.

Harvard-Knox Fellowship, 2003. Awarded to Harvard graduate for post-graduate study at University of Cambridge.

Harry S. Truman Scholar, 2002. Awarded nationally to college juniors for leadership, dedication to public service, and academic achievement.

Mills-Taylor Essay Prize, 2002. Awarded to best essay in Social Studies program at Harvard College.

Jane Grant Essay Prize, 2002. Awarded to best essay in Gender Studies program at Harvard College.

Houston Award for Public Service, 2003. Awarded to six seniors at Harvard for demonstrating leadership and public service.

Radcliffe Fellowship, 2003. Awarded to support research in China regarding women’s human rights, international law, and domestic violence.



JD (June 2009), Harvard Law School

MA (2004), Development Studies, University of Cambridge, Harvard-Knox Fellow

BA (2003), Social Studies and Gender Studies, Harvard College, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa





Reading with Patrick (Random House 2017)



"How Recording My Audiobook Brought Me Closer to My Immigrant Mother" for Literary Hub (10 July 2017)

On literacy, excerpted in The American Scholar (12 September 2017)

“The Free Write,” excerpted in Arkansas Life (12 September 2017)

"There's a Reason Demagogues Despise Books” for Signature Reads (11 July 2017)

"Writers Recommend”in Poets & Writers (12 July 2017)

"Connecting Through Literature," in RHI Magazine (15 March 2017)

“Letter from Paris.” Co-written with Albert Wu for the Los Angeles Review of Books (21 November, 2015). 

“Those Who Leave.” Co-written with Albert Wu. Review Essay of Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, in The Point Magazine (31 March, 2015). 

“I Dare Not: The Muted Style of Writer in Exile Ha Jin.” Co-written Albert Wu. Review Essay of Ha Jin, A Map of Betrayal, in Los Angeles Review of Books (11 January, 2015). 

 “‘Take the Good Life and Be Happy’: On The Americans.” Co-written with Albert Wu. Los Angeles Review of Books (24 April, 2014).

  “Animal Feelings.” Co-written with Albert Wu. Review essay of Barbara J. King, How Animals Grieve, in Public Books (9 September, 2013):

 “Scientology: The Mystery Sandwich.” Co-written with Albert Wu. Review essay of Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology,Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief; Hugh Urban, The Church of Scientology: The History of a New Religion; and Jenna Miscavige Hill, Beyond Belief : My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, in the Los Angeles Review of Books (12 May, 2013).

“Imperfect Strollers: Teju Cole, Ben Lerner, W. G. Sebald, and the Alienated Cosmopolitan.” Co-written with Albert Wu. Review essay of Teju Cole, Open City, Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station, and W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, in the Los Angeles Review of Books (2 February, 2013).

 “In Hell, 'We Shall Be Free': On Breaking Bad and Paradise Lost.” Co-written with Albert Wu. Review of the television series Breaking Bad, in the Los Angeles Review of Books (13 July, 2012).

“Marilynne Robinson and the Miraculous Privilege of Existence.” Co-written with Albert Wu. Review of Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books, in the Los Angeles Review of Books (22 May, 2012).

Conferences & Lectures

“On storytelling and the place of the Arkansas Delta.”University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Multicultural Center, 25 September 2017.

“Literacy, Poverty and the Human Imagination.”Little Rock, Arkansas, Clinton School of Public Service, 26 September 2017.

Reading, Turnrow Books, Greenwood, Mississippi, 27 September 2017.

Reading,  Off Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 28 September 2017.

On rural education and literacy. Harvard Education School, 23 October 2017.

On incarceration and inequality in the rural South and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Harvard Law School, Criminal Justice Policy Program, 25 October 2017.

Conversation at Mahindra Humanities Center on incarceration and the arts, with novelist and screenwriter Richard Price (Emmy-nominated writer/creator of the HBO series THE NIGHT OF; and most recently, writer of THE DEUCE) and with Edyson Julio (Urban Scholar and MA candidate at the Harvard School of Education, Creative Writing instructor at Rikers Island prison), 25 October 2017

On Asian American narratives in social justice, Asian American Pacific Law Students Conference, 2 February 2018

Reading, Arkansas Literary Festival, April 2018

On Reading with Patrick, Cambridge Public Library, 20 July 2017.

On reading Frederick Douglass in jail, Harvard Literary Festival, April 2014.

“Public Interested” Conference for Public Service, January 2013, Harvard University.