Upcoming Event

Hansen Shi at Harvard Book Store


The Expat: A Novel

in conversation with JU YON KIM


July 10, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes HANSEN SHI—writer and technology investor—for a discussion of his debut novel The Expat. He will be joined in conversation by JU YON KIM—Patsy Takemoto Mink Professor of English at Harvard University and author of The Racial Mundane

About The Expat

At twenty-six, Princeton grad Michael Wang is trapped. Stifled under the bamboo ceiling at General Motors, he’s working quietly on a breakthrough in self-driving car technology that he hopes will catapult him out of obscurity. Disaffected and largely friendless in San Francisco, he’s dogged by resentment towards the Ivy Leaguers who never accepted him and his colleagues at GM who see him as passive and faceless.

But all that changes when one night, on a freelance coding platform, he meets the beautiful and enigmatic Vivian. She’s been admiring Michael’s work from afar and represents a rival Beijing tech company that’s eager to poach him as a newly minted executive, liberate his ideas from the stagnant confines of GM, and help him find success in the wilder, less regulated business environs of China.

For Michael—alienated and underappreciated—it’s no choice at all. But as soon as Michael arrives in Beijing, Vivian vanishes. When the true nature of his new position is made clear, Michael finds himself enmeshed in a dangerous web of industrial espionage and counterintelligence. Caught between two countries that view him as a pawn, where do his loyalties lie?

Piercingly intelligent and ruthlessly contemporary, The Expat is both a white-knuckle spy novel and a thrilling exploration of the myth of meritocracy, high-tech immigration, U.S.-China conflicts, identity, and disaffection that asks: in the pursuit of self-actualization, who will we betray and how far will we go.

Praise for The Expat

“Hansen Shi’s debut uses a taut, piercingly of-the-moment spy story as a staging area for a beautifully layered, bitingly funny exploration of identity, the legacies of trauma and alienation, and the way that nations and the clashes between them can consume and co-opt every corner of a life. The Expat is pure espionage pleasure but also an enthralling dispatch from a world scarred by seething, barely submerged conflicts, both ideological and personal. A triumphant first novel.” —Paul Yoon, author of Run Me To Earth and The Hive and the Honey

"The Expat is, for starters, a first-rate novel of modern spycraft, complete with honeypots, dark web recruiters, triple agents, and international proxy wars. But it's also a brilliant novel about a certain brand of Asian-American thwartedness—how the thirst for recognition can make you vulnerable to your own self-mythology, and how people who are denied visibility may exploit their invisibility. Like a Tesla, The Expat is sleek, fast, and unexpectedly deadly, and Hansen Shi's talent is so giant that it's a bit suspicious...I wonder who he's working for?" —Tony Tulathimutte, author of Rejection and Private Citizens

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Hansen Shi
Hansen Shi

Hansen Shi

Hansen Shi is a writer and technology investor. He studied literature at Harvard College where he was on the Fiction Board of the Harvard Advocate. He currently works as a venture capitalist in New York City.

Ju Yon Kim
Ju Yon Kim

Ju Yon Kim

Ju Yon Kim is the Patsy Takemoto Mink Professor of English at Harvard University. Her research and teaching interests include modern and contemporary American literature and theater, with a particular focus on Asian American culture. Her first book, The Racial Mundane: Asian American Performance and the Embodied Everyday, received the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize from the New England American Studies Association. She is currently working on a book titled Paper Performance: Suspicion and the Spaces of Asian American Theater.

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