R. O. Kwon

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R. O. Kwon
Kwon in 2019
Kwon in 2019
BornOkyong Kwon
Seoul, South Korea
Alma mater
Years active2017–present

R. O. Kwon is a South Korean-born American author. In 2018, she published her nationally bestselling[1] debut novel The Incendiaries with Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Early life[edit]

Kwon was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was three.[2] She was raised in a Christian household but at the age of 17 experienced a crisis of faith and stopped believing in God.

She attended Yale University.[3] She has a Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College.[4]


Kwon's work has appeared in publications including The New York Times,[5] The Guardian,[6] The Paris Review,[7] BuzzFeed,[8] Vice,[9] New York Magazine's The Cut,[10] and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts,[11] Yaddo,[12] and MacDowell.[13]

In 2018, Kwon published her debut novel,The Incendiaries, about a woman who becomes involved with a cult of extremist Christians. The novel was inspired by Kwon's own loss of faith in God, and it took her 10 years to finish.[14][15][16] The Incendiaries was named a best book of the year by over 40 publications and organizations,[17][18] including the Today Show, NPR, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, PBS Books, Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, and elsewhere, and it is being translated into seven languages.[19] Before the book's release, Kwon was called one of "4 writers to watch" by The New York Times.[20] The Incendiaries is an American Booksellers Association Indie Next #1 Great Read[21] and an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce Pick.[22] The novel received the Housatonic Book Prize,[23] and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award for Best First Book,[24] Los Angeles Times First Book Prize,[25] and Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Prize.[26] In addition, the book has been nominated for the American Library Association Carnegie Medal[27] and Aspen Prize.[28]

Personal life[edit]

In November 2018 Kwon revealed that she is bisexual.[29] The initials in her name stand for Reese, her English name, and Okyong, her Korean name.[30]


  1. ^ "The Indie Bestseller List". Authorlink. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  2. ^ Kwon, R.O. "The Mistake I Made at 'Crazy Rich Asians'". A Cup Of Jo. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  3. ^ Han, Jimin. "Interview with R.O. Kwon, Author of The Incendiaries". Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  4. ^ Thomas, Monet Patrice (18 July 2018). "We're All Unreliable Narrators: Talking with R.O. Kwon". The Rumpus. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  5. ^ Kwon, R. O. (2019-03-23). "Opinion | Stop Calling Asian Women Adorable". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  6. ^ Kwon, R. O. (2017-06-29). "Blind Spot by Teju Cole review – a writer's photographs". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  7. ^ Kwon, R. O. (2019-01-07). "On Being a Woman in America While Trying to Avoid Being Assaulted". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  8. ^ Kwon, R.O. "I'm Korean American, And I Can't Watch The Pyeongchang Olympics". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  9. ^ Kwon, R. O. (2017-09-25). "The Clown from 'IT' Reminded Me of God, and I Loved Him". Vice. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  10. ^ Kwon, R.O. (6 April 2018). ""Why I Always Wear Black Eyeshadow"". The Cut.
  11. ^ "R. O. Kwon". NEA. 2018-05-30. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  12. ^ "Writers". Yaddo. 2016-09-11. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  13. ^ "2017 MacDowell Fellows Announced". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  14. ^ Fassler, Joe. "A Writer's Fixation on Sound". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  15. ^ Beckley, Sarah. "Novelist R.O. Kwon on Losing Her Religion". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  16. ^ Winnette, Colin. "Grief That Drives: R.O. Kwon by Colin Winnette - BOMB Magazine". bombmagazine.org. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  17. ^ "The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  18. ^ ""At the Center": Interview with R.O. Kwon". Indiana Review. 2019-03-02. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  19. ^ "Foreign Editions". R.O. Kwon. Retrieved 2020-01-27.
  20. ^ de León, Concepción (2018-06-09). "4 Writers to Watch This Summer". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  21. ^ Button, Liz (2018-07-16). "A Q&A With R.O. Kwon, Author of August's #1 Indie Next List Pick". the American Booksellers Association. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  22. ^ "Indies Introduce Summer Fall 2018". the American Booksellers Association. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  23. ^ "Housatonic Book Awards". Housatonic Book Awards. Retrieved 2020-01-27.
  24. ^ "National Book Critics Circle: Announcing the Finalists for the John Leonard Award for Best First Book - Critical Mass Blog". www.bookcritics.org. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  25. ^ Schaub, Michael. "L.A. Times Book Prize finalists include Michelle Obama and Susan Orlean; Terry Tempest Williams receives lifetime achievement award". latimes.com. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  26. ^ "Book Awards". Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  27. ^ "Andrew Carnegie Medals Longlist | Awards & Grants". www.ala.org. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  28. ^ "Exclusive: 'Friday Black,' 'There There' And More Longlisted For Aspen Words Prize". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  29. ^ Rich, Kaelyn. "Korean-American Bestselling Author R.O. Kwon Is Bisexual, Has Flawless Signature Eyeshadow". Autostraddle. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  30. ^ Ho, Olivia. "Writer R. O. Kwon putting her anguish into words". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 January 2020.

External links[edit]