Claire Kuo

Sister/daughter. Writer. Learner.

I am a student at Columbia University majoring in Creative Writing and concentrating in Political Science! On campus, I’ve served as President of our Taiwanese American Student Association, a counselor for Camp Kesem, and a tour guide for the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee. Outside of Columbia, I am a part-time essay editor at Pano Education and am involved in non-profit/advocacy work. As the former VP of Service for the Global Leadership Organization’s NYC Chapter, I pioneered our service model with social justice initiatives surrounding criminal justice. This term, I’ve taken on the role of Community Outreach Strategist and am excited to continue innovating! This past fall (2020), I’ve had the additional privilege of speaking alongside An-Che Teng at TEDxYouth@IBSH. Lastly, I am an aspiring writer, writing primarily nonfiction and poetry. My writing obsessions include Taiwan, my family, and the multi-faceted nature of water. Some of my work has been published in Claw & Blossom and is forthcoming in the Bryant Literary Review.


How does being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American and/or community ally play a role in your life?

I spent much of my life living in Taiwan, so Taiwan is definitely where I’d call home. I can’t ever imagine how different I would be if I didn’t grow up on Taiwanese food. But most of all, Taiwan and, by extension, the Taiwanese/Taiwanese American community has been an anchor for me. Those that I’ve met have been beyond kind and lovely (One time, I was even given a sizable chunk of homemade 蘿蔔糕 that sustained me for literally over a week. Shoutout to Su!)

Being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American has also shaped my values in a way where I’m able to access two widely different (and sometimes even opposing!) cultures and systems of thinking. Whether it be larger ideas surrounding individualism v. collectivism/different moral scales/religion or daily life incidents such as interactions with friends/humor/food, I’m grateful to have been exposed to multiple ways of seeing the world. This identity fuels much of my creative work and often unintentionally seeps into my writing. In recent years, I have been constantly thinking about how to convey meaning across cultures, the work of translations, and bringing Taiwanese voices into the literary spheres!

Overall, indescribably proud to be part of the Taiwanese/Taiwanese American community! Wouldn’t wish it any other way.


If you could teach future generations 1 thing about being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American or Taiwan, what would it be?

I would teach future generations about the seemingly very Taiwanese habit of unfettered kindness. There, more often than not, seems to be an innate trust. The way you can leave a laptop running on a table in 7-11 as you go to the bathroom, the way my cousin lost his wallet at a bowling alley and returned to find it untouched, the way a bicyclist I saw chased down a motorcyclist to hand back a possession dropped on the road. That sort of small kindness has always seemed rather beautiful.


What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

I don’t know if this is confirmation bias, but I seem to see Taiwanese people everywhere! Both in random, unexpected situations and in all sorts of professions as role models. The future of Taiwanese America, to me, looks like the strengthening of this family through closer communal bonds. I imagine we’ll continue to be this amazing network of people throughout the States, creating a space for us to reconnect with our identity, support one another in our endeavors, and spreading awareness about our culture. I know, as Taiwanese/Taiwanese Americans, we have such drive, resiliency, and rich cultural heritage that we could be an unstoppable force of good.


Favorite memory of Taiwan/Taiwanese America?

Being back in Taiwan, walking out onto the balcony of our apartment, taking a deep breath, and realizing (for the very first time) that the smell of the air was a sign that I’m home. Taiwan air has this unique smell that’s a mixture of humidity, a little bit of incense/routine straw burning, and a few something else-s that I can’t quite pinpoint.


Favorite Taiwanese food?


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