Our quarterly Fireside Chat series brings an Asian author, artist, or academic into conversation with Jafreen Uddin, Executive Director of AAWW. This June, Jafreen will be joined by journalist, lawyer, TV host, and award-winning playwright Wajahat Ali to share updates from the Workshop, and to discuss uplifting the next generation of Asian American creators.
Jafreen Uddin is the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. She is the first woman to lead the organization since its founding in 1991. With over a decade of experience working in the public sector, she specializes in communications, education, and fundraising. She most recently served as Deputy Director of Development for Special Events with PEN America, managing a high-level portfolio of events and cultivation activities. Prior to joining PEN America, she helped oversee Executive Education as an Assistant Director with NYU’s Stern School of Business, developing and coordinating both degree and non-degree programming for cohorts of senior-level executives. She began her career with a nearly-eight-year stint at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where she helped create the infrastructure for the public programming calendar of events, and spent nearly three years managing an online Book Salon for Aslan Media, spotlighting writers and artists from the greater Middle East/South Asia region. She regularly volunteers her time with a number of local South Asian and Muslim organizations in New York City, including serving as Chairperson of the Columbia Muslim Alumni Association from 2011-2015 and as a current Board Member for Laal-NYC. She received her B.A. in political economics from Barnard College, Columbia University, and her M.A. in global history from NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science.
Wajahat Ali is a Daily Beast columnist, public speaker, recovering attorney, and tired dad of three cute kids. He is currently working on his first book Go Back To Where You Came From: And, Other Helpful Recommendations on Becoming American which will be published in Spring 2022 by Norton. He believes in sharing stories that are by us, for everyone: universal narratives told through a culturally specific lens to entertain, educate and bridge the global divides.
He also enjoys writing about himself in the third person. He frequently appears on television and podcasts for his brilliant, incisive, and witty political commentary. (That’s what his mom says anyway). Born in the Bay Area, California to Pakistani immigrant parents, Ali went to school wearing Husky pants and knowing only three words of English. He graduated from UC Berkeley with an English major and became a licensed attorney. He knows what it feels like to be the token minority in the classroom and the darkest person in a boardroom. Like Spiderman, he’s often had the power and responsibility of being the cultural ambassador of an entire group of people, those who are often marginalized, silenced, or reduced to stereotypes. His essays, interviews, and reporting have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and New York Review of Books. Ali has spoken at many organizations, from Google to Walmart-Jet to Princeton University to the United Nations to the Chandni Indian-Pakistani Restaurant in Newark, California, and his living room in front of his two kids.