About me: Creative writer. Thoughtful observer. Resourceful journalist. Lover of a good story. Gulf Coaster. Fan of road trips and international wandering and good food. Grew up in Alabama with Taiwanese roots. Can’t stand the question “Where are you really from?”

Bio: I’m an experienced business journalist who’s currently a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University. I’m also the CEO of LedBetter, a web app launching in 2016 that will highlight the gender gap in the top leadership of major consumer brands. I started my career at The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, where I covered the arts and travel out of China, Taiwan and Laos. Most recently, I covered the U.S. oil industry for energy news wire Argus Media, a subscription-only publication tailored to an expert audience.  Previously I led the green energy web vertical and investment coverage for VentureBeat and covered local news for the Houston Chronicle. My work has also appeared on North Texas Public Radio (KERA 90.1), out of the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau and on the front pages of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Miami Herald.

My work ranges from chasing deepwater platform fires to tackling big features on the American energy boom and its aftermath. I’ve also  reported on a speculative boom in the price of tea leaves in China and golf course brawls in Houston. A recent favorite: visiting oil caverns deep beneath sugar cane fields in Louisiana, washed down over the weekend with beignets and  grilled oysters.

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10 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: Tar Sands Flowing to Gulf in Keystone XL South » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

  2. Hi Iris,

    Hope you are well on this beautiful Thursday.

    I’m sure you have a million emails from random people like me.

    Hear me out, no sales pitch.

    I work for ChaiOne, an enterprise mobility agency here in Houston. We work with some of the top Fortune 500 Companies. Our clients are mainly in Oil and Gas and the industrial space.

    We specialize in UX research and developing contextual applications for today’s mobile worker. We maintain a highly trafficked blog covering these topics.

    If you like what you read, would you consider writing a guest blog post for us?

    We would obviously pay you. If you are interested, please reply with your rates.

    Thanks so much for your time Iris.

    Have a fabulous rest of your day!


  3. Saw your email to me just before the Windows 8 laptop went deep 6. Please send me another, as I have switched to a MAC and am rebuilding my address book. Glad to see you’re well and all healed. Cheers.

  4. Sheena Byrnes says:

    Good morning Iris,
    I just finished reading a story about the apps designed to show if a company employs a fair percentage of women. It’s a wonderful idea. Would it be possible to also find out what percentage of people over 50, both women and men, companies employ?
    Age discrimination is rampant. I’ve several well educated, entirely competent friends over 50 who either cannot get jobs at all or are working jobs far beneath what they’ve had in the past.
    Just a thought.
    Thank you,
    Sheena Byrnes

  5. Hi Iris,

    My name is (also) Iris and I’m an artist and am currently getting an MFA in Visual Arts at Columbia University. I was just talking to my friend on the phone about the politics of “passing” within the Asian American community and in context with the white American world. Her phone disconnected, and while waiting for her to call back, I scrolled my Facebook feed and saw your article “Why do my co-workers confuse me with other people?” on Junot Diaz’s wall. I was surprised by how timely this post was, especially since I was just talking about it, so I clicked on it, and read your article (and was surprised that your name is also Iris). It goes without saying that I relate well to it, and I also have other ideas that I am trying to work through that relate to identity as an American born in Los Angeles to Taiwanese parents. I was wondering, because of all the coincidences that appeared within a few minutes, if you wanted to connect and talk about these issues more in depth.

    Thanks for the work that you do!


  6. Ms. Kuo–I just read your piece in WaPo about indignation at the crudities and rudeness of caucasians. Maybe lighten up a little bit. Much anger can be reduced through understanding, seeing the situation from other’s viewpoints, and compassion.

    I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand and was often in circumstances of being the only caucasian for many kilometers and in venues caucasians seldom appeared. I was an anomaly. I was stereotyped. I was discriminated against. You can’t do this–you are a farang; a “white” person. I was angry.

    In retrospect, my youthful anger was misplaced. Now that I’m a sexagenarian, I look back at these instances of discrimination, curiosity, and assumptions fondly. Its just human nature. No matter where you are, human beings are basically the same. Same prejudices, same wants, same needs, same desires.

    I have lived abroad for more than ten years and have visited 36 countries. I love being foreign. You are blessed. You can be foreign in your own country. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Laugh at it.

    My wife is Filipina. When she is in Asian countries, many natives assume she is a native Thai, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, etc. and start speaking to her in their native language. It takes a discerning eye with much experience and considerable effort to identify differing nationalities and races.

    Be kind. Be gentle. Like your editor said, “There is not a mean bone in their bodies.” Ignorance is no excuse, but you can be forgiving. Life is good. Its a wonderful life. Enjoy.

  7. Paul Larkin says:

    Hi Iris.
    I’m a babyboomer not used to these blog things so I hope I’m putting this comment in the right place. Your article “Why do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? I’m Asian.” is published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and it really bothered me. Perhaps I’m naive but I doubt if your experiences would occur here in Australia. Nobody I know has any problem distinguishing people from one another, regardless of race. We can even notice the similarities between siblings. And you wouldn’t be described as “an Asian”. People would be more interested, genuinely interested, in knowing your cultural background. It’s one of the things people share when they get to know each other.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but some of the articles I read about American culture seem to suggest that Americans aren’t as strong on details, such as facial features, as Australian. If you find that wrong and/or offensive I apologise.

    And of course we do have our fair share of racists.

    If you really get sick and tired of getting other peoples’ pay cheques, you can always send to me! Jokes!

    Anyway, have a good day and know many Australians are with you in spirit.

  8. Hi Iris,

    Enjoyed your article “Why do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? Because I’m Asian.”

    I’m a Westerner who has lived in China and Japan and am currently living in Singapore.

    I totally agree with what you say about ignorant people confusing Asians with each other and also making stupid remarks pertaining to Asians as a whole, as if it were a perpetually relevant topic to you.

    I’d have to say, however, that what could be said about the way you have been treated as an Asian, could possibly be said for the way Westerners are treated in Asian countries, if not even more so. The very fact that the majority of Western countries are regarded as multicultural must indicate that there is a high probability that what I am saying rings true.

    I’ve walked down the street in central China, to have people yell the equivalent of “foreigner”, people go past saying “hello” putting on weird voices to say it, and pointing and staring.

    I’ve spoken Chinese when buying things in Singapore, only to have the shopkeeper go and find a younger staff member, complaining they couldn’t speak English. Same goes for China.

    Don’t get me started on the compliments I get for speaking Chinese as well. Not to mention generalisations about whether I can eat spicy food or whether or not I can eat with chopsticks. (My favourite food globally is Indian food, but if we’re just talking about China, it’s Sichuan food.)

    Probably the one place I’ve faced less ignorance of this type is Japan.

    I applaud you on your article. Really enjoyed it. And I can only echo what you said in your extended heading “Yes, it’s usually done without malice. No, that does not make it okay.”

    Have a good one,


  9. Alex Lu says:

    Hi Iris,

    Just read your article, “Why do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? Because I’m Asian.”

    For background, I’m Chinese-American and half white (on my mom’s side). My mom is actually the one who shared this with me on Facebook.

    I am so thankful you wrote and put this out there for the world to read. It’s about time someone spoke the truth for how it is. Honestly, I hardly faced much racism growing up even through high school – which was most likely a fortunate case. Once I got into college, that’s when racism seemed to hit me like a train.

    To be fair, I didn’t have it as bad as a lot of people. But being mixed, I got questions like, “what are you?” and “where are you from?” a lot. I used to brush it off especially when those interactions occurred with strangers. However, even some of my friends started making Asian jokes and comments – of course in a joking manner from their perspective. But in my eyes it was funny the first few times; after a while I got sick and tired of it and began to resent some of them for those remarks.

    I agree with everything you said in the article, and actually laughed out loud during this section:

    ““You’re so pretty,” a woman at a concert told me. “My son is marrying a Vietnamese girl. Are you Vietnamese?”

    You’re so pretty, too! I wanted to say. My cousin is marrying a white guy from Tennessee. Are you from Tennessee? But I didn’t say it.”

    That would’ve been funny if you came back with that response, but you probably already know that you took the high road and were the better person by not doing so. It’s unfortunate we often have to go that route while it seems that many other people can let their arrogance and stupidity speak for themselves.

    Don’t let those negative comments on your article make you think otherwise, feel bad about yourself, or reconsider what you’ve written. No matter what race you are, justifying your situation after reading about someone else’s is just selfish. In a white man’s world, it’s usually the minorities (especially in America) that suffer and endure hardships such as these. If we truly want to rid the nation and world of racism, we need to stop acting like all Asians, African Americans, Latinos, etc. are the same because they are not.

    Kudos to you for writing this article. You have my support. Keep up the great work!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi Iris,

    Thanks for your interesting article, “Why do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? Because I’m Asian.” I am a white person living in Thailand, and I am frequently discriminated against here because I am not Thai. Discrimination is not unique to any one culture, and it is present in varying degrees in every culture throughout the world.

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