Videos from the 2019 First-Year Experience® Conference are now available

By Luis Diaz | May 2 2019 | College & University Reads

We’re pleased to share videos from the First-Year Experience® Conference held in Las Vegas, NV this past February. If you weren’t able to join us for our author events at the conference, or would simply like to hear the talks again, please take a moment to view the clips below.


Penguin Random House Author Dinner

Saturday, February 16, 2019 | 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm


This event featured authors Eli Saslow (RISING OUT OF HATRED), Clemantine Wamariya (THE GIRL WHO SMILED BEADS), Casey Gerald (THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE), and Tara Westover (EDUCATED).


View the video clips below:


Washington Post journalist Eli Saslow (Rising Out of Hatred) relayed the story of white supremacist radio host Derek Black, whose racist ideology was ultimately transformed as a result of sustained engagement with his peers at New College of Florida. Reflecting on his time spent reporting on Derek’s story, Eli shares his message of optimism both for the ideological divides of our current sociopolitical environment and for the transformative powers of sharing our individual stories with each other.



Rwandan genocide survivor, Clemantine Wamariya (The Girl Who Smiled Beads) invited the audience to take her experiences of war and hatred and use them as tools to show students what happens when people come together.



When Casey Gerald (There Will Be No Miracles Here) was recruited from South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, Texas to play football at Yale, he was told that it was the best thing that could ever happen for him. This opportunity set him on the path to “success” that would eventually take him to Wall Street, Washington, D.C., Harvard Business School, the stage of TED, and to George W. Bush’s dinner table. But by his late-twenties, he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He shares with us his warning to young people, who he hopes will define “success” for themselves and not by the sometimes mythical “American Dream.”



Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover (Educated) was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. The story of her secluded upbringing and then subsequent education at Harvard and Cambridge University informs of the power and of the limits of education.


Penguin Random House Author Lunch

Sunday, February 17, 2019 | 12:15 pm – 1:45 pm


This event featured authors Sharmila Sen (NOT QUITE NOT WHITE), Laurie Halse Anderson (SHOUT), Fatima Farheen Mirza (A PLACE FOR US), and Abdi Nor Iftin (CALL ME AMERICAN).


View the video clips below:


At the age of 12, Sharmila Sen (Not Quite Not White) emigrated from India to the United States. Years later, when her son was tasked with the school assignment to interview an immigrant, his mother was the obvious choice. When Sharmila began explaining to him that she was not completely enamored with all things “American” upon her arrival, her son became disappointed and confused. He had been taught in school to believe that immigrants are heroes who should be celebrated because of their representation of progressive politics. His mother’s lack of unabashed enthusiasm for her new country did not fit the narrative he had been taught to imagine. In her book and in her talk, Sharmila challenges this perception.



Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson (Shout) is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Enraged by how little in our culture has changed since the publication of her novel Speak twenty years ago, Shout is her memoir of her own experiences as a sexual assault survivor. Laurie’s message for the FYE® audience is one of rightfully impatient rage.



A winner of the annual U.S. visa lottery, Abdi Nor Iftin (Call Me American) first fell in love with America as a child growing up in Mogadishu, Somalia by watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. After teaching himself English using these films, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. Eventually, Abdi was forced to illegally flee to Kenya and ultimately, after many injustices, found his way to Maine. His memoir is a vivid reminder of why America still beckons to those looking to make a better life.


Cocktails & Conversation

Sunday, February 17, 2019 | 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm


This event featured authors Scott Harrison (THIRST) and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha (WHAT THE EYES DON’T SEE).


View the video clips below:


After a decade of indulging his darkest vices as a nightclub promoter, Scott Harrison (Thirst) declared spiritual, moral, and emotional bankruptcy. At 28, he decided to spend sixteen months on a hospital ship in West Africa, where he saw the disturbing effects of dirty water. He returned to the United States in 2006 with one goal in mind: to provide clean water to the (then) 1.1 billion people who lack access to it. As the founder and CEO of charity: water, Scott has spent the last twelve years working to fund 35,000 water projects in 27 countries. When completed, those projects will provide over 9.6 million people with clean, safe drinking water. 100% of the book’s net proceeds will go to charity: water projects around the world. Scott’s story inspires students to reject apathy and ask themselves how they can use their time and their talents to serve others.



In Flint, Michigan, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha (What the Eyes Don’t See), a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, entered the fight of her life when she set out to prove that lead had poisoned the city’s water supply. Accompanied by a team of researchers, parents, friends, and community leaders and armed with leaked documents, anecdotal accounts from concerned parents, and her determined activist spirit, Dr. Mona exposed the truth to the world. At the center of this story of shameful, manmade disaster is Dr. Mona herself – an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose self-determination reminds students that they do not have to settle for the America that they have been given.


Penguin Random House Author Lunch

Monday, February 18, 2019 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm


This event featured authors Alex Wagner (FUTUREFACE), Issac J. Bailey (MY BROTHER MOOCHIE), Winona Guo & Priya Vulchi (TELL ME WHO YOU ARE), and Zachary R. Wood (UNCENSORED).


View the video clips below:


Although Alex Wagner (Futureface) was unable to attend the FYE® Conference in person, she recorded her remarks in a special video that was played for attendees. The daughter of a Burmese mother and a white American father, Alex grew up thinking of herself as a “futureface” – an avatar of a mixed-race future when all races would merge into a brown singularity. Drawn into the world of ancestry, she embarks on a worldwide quest to discover who she really is and where she belongs. She also reminds the audience that her quest for belonging is far from unique.



When Issac J. Bailey (My Brother Moochie) was 9 years old, his older brother stabbed and killed a man and was sentenced to life in prison. Haunted by violent images and trauma that manifested in the form of a severe stutter, it was not until 25 years later that Issac sought help for the PTSD that had afflicted him for most of his life. Drawing on sociological research as well as his expertise as a journalist, Issac explores the roles that poverty, race, incarceration, faith, shame, and guilt play in the lives of black men and in society as a whole. His powerful story of “silent shame” asks the audience to consider the invisible scars their students may carry and to equip themselves with the tools necessary to be able to help them.



Between high school and college, Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi (Tell Me Who You Are) took a gap year in order to travel the country and collect first-person accounts of how racism plays out in this country every day. Featuring over 150 interviews, the resulting book serves as a toolkit for effecting change in our communities. Ranging from toddlers to Japanese-American internment camp survivors, these interviews encompass a wide range of intersectional identities not frequently heard in mainstream media.



When Zachary R. Wood (Uncensored) arrived at Williams College, he realized that most of the discussions he was having with his peers and professors about some of today’s most divisive sociopolitical topics were conversations revolving around agreement, not dissent. He quickly realized that in order to equip himself to go out into the world to be an agent of change, he needed to engage in conversations with people who held drastically different viewpoints. Using the skills that he learned over the course of his troubled upbringing, Zach compels us to consider a new way of interacting with those we disagree with and presents a new outlook on society’s most difficult conversations.


A Memoir
Selected for common reading at: 

Not Quite Not White
Losing and Finding Race in America
"Captivating... [a] heartfelt account of how newcomers carve a space for themselves in the melting pot of America."--Publishers WeeklyA first-generation immigrant's "intimate, passionate look at race in America" (Viet Thanh Nguyen), an American's journey into the heart of not-whiteness.

A New York Times bestseller and one of 2019's best-reviewed books, a poetic memoir and call to action from the award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!
Age 14 and up
Grade 9 & Up

A Place for Us

Call Me American
A Memoir
Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop and watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies.

What the Eyes Don't See
A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City
A New York Times Notable Book

A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging
Selected for common reading at Western Washington University                

My Brother Moochie
Regaining Dignity in the Face of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South
A rare first-person account that combines a journalist's skilled, objective reporting and insightful writing with the raw emotion of a younger brother's heart-felt testimony of what his own family went through for decades after his eldest brother killed a man, pleaded guilty, and received a sentence of life in prison