Jessica
Critically Acclaimed Nonfiction Writer
J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize
Travels from: Austin, TX

“Simply brilliant, both in its granular storytelling and its enormous compassion”  The New York Times Book Review

Jessica Goudeau is a journalist, professor, producer, and advocate. Her first nonfiction book, After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America, won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and a Christopher Award, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice book, World Magazine’s “Understanding the World” Book of the Year, a Library Journal “Best Social Science Book of the Year,” and one of Chicago Public Library’s “Best Books of 2020.” It was a finalist for the Writer’s League of Texas Nonfiction Book Award, a finalist for the BookTube Prize, shortlisted for the Chautauqua Prize, and longlisted for the Reading the West Narrative Nonfiction Award.

She has been an as-told-to columnist about displaced people and those living in war zones for Catapult, and has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, among other places. She is currently working on her next nonfiction book for Viking called We Were Illegal. She produced a mini-documentary series called “Ask a Syrian Girl” for Teen Vogue, and “A Line Birds Cannot See,” a short documentary distributed by The New Yorker.

She co-founded a nonprofit for Burmese refugee artisans in Austin that successfully ended after seven years when the last artisan found full-time employment. She has a PhD in US and South American literature from the University of Texas and speaks fluent Portuguese and Spanish. She served as a Mellon Writing Fellow and Interim Writing Center Director at Southwestern University, was a Visiting Professor at Sewanee School of Letters, and currently teaches Creative Nonfiction at Wilkes University.

After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America

Viking |
Nonfiction

“Simply brilliant, both in its granular storytelling and its enormous compassion” –The New York Times Book Review

The story of two refugee families and their hope and resilience as they fight to survive and belong in America

The welcoming and acceptance of immigrants and refugees have been central to America’s identity for centuries–yet America has periodically turned its back in times of the greatest humanitarian need. After the Last Border is an intimate look at the lives of two women as they struggle for the twenty-first century American dream, having won the “golden ticket” to settle as refugees in Austin, Texas.

Mu Naw, a Christian from Myanmar struggling to put down roots with her family, was accepted after decades in a refugee camp at a time when America was at its most open to displaced families; and Hasna, a Muslim from Syria, agrees to relocate as a last resort for the safety of her family–only to be cruelly separated from her children by a sudden ban on refugees from Muslim countries. Writer and activist Jessica Goudeau tracks the human impacts of America’s ever-shifting refugee policy as both women narrowly escape from their home countries and begin the arduous but lifesaving process of resettling in Austin–a city that would show them the best and worst of what America has to offer.

After the Last Border situates a dramatic, character-driven story within a larger history–the evolution of modern refugee resettlement in the United States, beginning with World War II and ending with current closed-door policies–revealing not just how America’s changing attitudes toward refugees have influenced policies and laws, but also the profound effect on human lives.

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How To Humanize

In a world that relies on sympathetic stories to change public opinion, the potential for harm to the real people at the heart of any good work remains high. In this practical, multimedia presentation, advocate and author Jessica Goudeau frames the questions you should be asking before you tell other people’s stories and provides the necessary tools to write engaging, ethically told narratives that transcend stereotypes and tropes.

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What It Means to Be a Witness

It feels important to pay attention to traumatic events in the world, but how can we do that without being overwhelmed? In this presentation, Goudeau uses works of art and literature to give practical insight into how activists have maintained a role Walter Benjamin describes as “an Angel of History”—someone who cannot fix, but can witness in a lifelong, sustainable way.

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The Power of Empathetic Journalism

In this talk, Goudeau outlines the power of free journalism in a strong democracy, how she uses empathy in her writing about immigration, and why she believes empathetic journalism has never been more important than it is in our contentious, polarized age.

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I’m with the Banned

In this poignant, thoughtful, and sometimes funny presentation, Goudeau looks at the power of excellent stories—many of them banned at contentious times in US history—to why suppressing ideas never works, what is lost when free speech is only granted to the socially acceptable few, and why art that batters boundaries is critical in a healthy democracy.

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The Courage to Say Hard Things

Using poetry as a way to look inward, Goudeau describes her own journey to moral courage: why it is often harder to speak with people we care about than strangers, what it costs to advocate for change, and what can be gained by facing the truth of our own past in order to push for a future that is better for everyone.

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American Identity And How It Shapes Our Policies Toward Newcomers

We often think about public policies as neutral things: a war happens and the US welcomes refugees, or we adjust our immigration practices to a humanitarian crisis. But in this multimedia presentation, Goudeau shows that the mercurial mood of the US public—whether we see ourselves as generous or threatened, in need of isolation or expansion—shapes our public policies more than worldwide need. She argues that persuading those in power to change their mind about themselves might be the only way to enact real change to US policies.

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How Can You Say That?

In this multimedia presentation, Goudeau goes beyond today’s culture of outrage and indignation to explain why she thinks compassion and critical thinking are two of the most overlooked values in our siloed world, why they matter so much, and how these qualities can provide us necessary bridges to a more cohesive tomorrow.

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The Seductive Danger of White Christian Nationalism

In this presentation that weaves together her personal story with US history and literature, Goudeau explores why Christian nationalism resonates so deeply with Americans, its pitfalls on a national, regional, and personal level, and how understanding our past gives us the tools we need to fight for a more reasonable present and hopeful future.

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You Name It

In this presentation that weaves together her personal story with US history and literature, Goudeau explores why Christian nationalism resonates so deeply with Americans, its pitfalls on a national, regional, and personal level, and how understanding our past gives us the tools we need to fight for a more reasonable present and hopeful future.

Telling Refugee Stories: A Conversation with Kao Kalia Yang and Jessica Goudeau

2021 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Ceremony

Jessica’s Upcoming Events

Jessica’s Recent Work

Honors, Awards & Recognition

New York Times Editors’ Choice Book Award Winner
Library Journal “Best Social Science Book of the Year”
Chicago Public Library’s “Best Books of 2020”
J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize
Christopher Award
World Magazine’s “Understanding the World” Book of the Year
Finalist for the Writer’s League of Texas Nonfiction Book Award
Finalist for the BookTube Prize
Shortlisted for the Chautauqua Prize
Longlisted for the Reading the West Narrative Nonfiction Award

Media Kit

By clicking the link below your will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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