Leslie Hsu Oh


Literature: Creative Nonfiction

By: Gail Obenreder

“My mother – a photographer, journalist, and painter – taught me that art could say the things that we are afraid to say [and] how it could heal long after the life of its creator.” — Leslie Hsu Oh

Leslie Hsu Oh has lived in Middletown for four years, but the accomplished writer and widely traveled nature photographer is still inspired by the entire country’s sweeping natural world. Oh was born in North Carolina, but “I feel like I grew up in the national parks of the United States and Canada.”

Her treks in and through nearly fifty national parks – begun as a child traveling with her parents and continued in adulthood via regular family trips — have grounded her aesthetic strongly in the natural world. And her mother’s example continues to inform her lifelong drive to speak with both words and images.

Excerpt: Fireweed: A Memoir (2018)

Thunder, lightning, and all the rain that Yellowstone National Park could conjure that day seemed determined to wash us out from under a skinny lodgepole pine. Wrapped tightly around my father’s leg, I looked up to see my brother cradled safely in his arms…

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As well as writing books and articles (in publications ranging from Outside to Washington Post to Conde Nast Traveler), she is also the Senior Editor of Panorama Journal of Intelligent Travel, sought-after public speaker and dedicated educator. The state of Alaska, with its adventurous outdoor life, is close to her heart: She taught at the University of Alaska (Anchorage) for a decade and is a Schweitzer for Life and Champion of Change for the White House in Asian American and Pacific Islander Storytelling and Art.

Because both her brother (who died at 18) and her mother (who died a year later) perished from hepatitis B, building on her literary skills and degree in biology, Oh founded The Hepatitis B Initiative as a student at the Harvard School of Public Health. The organization raises awareness about hepatitis B and has had a life-saving impact, but she feels that “the transformative power of art does more.” It’s Oh’s hope that the memoir she is now writing will combat the stigma of the disease, inspiring others to “find their voice and end the silence.”

That’s one reason that Oh is especially grateful to the Division for “supporting artists who have children.” Citing the challenges of undertaking professional development and continuing education activities while raising her family of four, Oh has plans to use the award and “carve out precious creative space for myself.”

Artist website: www.lesliehsuoh.com

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