Shawna Yang Ryan


Shawna Yang Ryan

Office hours:
by appt

About my work: My creative work is engaged with critical global issues around justice, history, identity and immigration. My debut novel Water Ghosts was published by the Penguin Press in 2009. The novel takes place in the Sacramento Delta in 1928 and employs magical realism to address the trauma that harsh immigration laws enacted upon early Chinese American communities. The novel also confronts the topics of race, gender, sexuality, and class that are embedded in the design and effects of such laws. Booklist called Water Ghosts “accomplished and affecting,” while The Boston Globe pronounced it a “notably assured debut.” Green Island  places at its center the victims of Taiwan’s White Terror era—the families destroyed by the mass arrests under the Chiang Kai Shek dictatorship and thirty-eight years of martial law. In Taiwan’s case, the act of remembering is especially important because of the way Taiwan’s history has been erased—first by the educational and political system and enforced Mandarin language of the authoritarian era, and now, today, by China’s narrative and by global political will.  The first novel written in the English language about this history, Green Island received an American Book Award and an Association for Asian American Studies Award for Best Book in Creative Writing. Beyond fiction, I am the co-creator of the website Our Taiwanese American Story, which is dedicated to collecting and archiving the stories of members of the Taiwanese diaspora. I also serve on the board of the North American Taiwanese Professors Association, an organization originally founded in resistance to Taiwan's repressive White Terror era policies.


Water Ghosts (Penguin Press 2009)  [formerly Locke 1928 from El Leon Literary Arts, 2007]; Green Island (Alfred A. Knopf 2016)

Areas of Interest

Craft of Fiction, Asian American literature, Taiwan history and politics, 20th & 21st cent. American Fiction


  • 2002 Fulbright Fellowship
  • 2006 UC Davis Maurice Prize
  • 2008 Finalist Northern California Book Award
  • 2015 Elliot Cades Emerging Writer Award from the Hawai'i Literary Arts Council
  • 2016 LLL Excellence in Teaching Award
  • 2017 American Book Award
  • 2018 Association for Asian American Studies Best Book in Creative Writing (Prose)
  • 2019 LLL Junior/Mid-Career Faculty Excellence in Scholarship & Research Award


B.A. UC Berkeley M.A. UC Davis


Spring Semester 2023
  • ENG-414: Fiction Workshop
  • ENG-716B: Techniques in Fiction: Autofiction

Fall Semester 2022
  • ENG-413: Form and Theory of Fiction

Spring Semester 2022
  • ENG-313: Types of Creative Writing
  • ENG-414: Fiction Workshop

Fall Semester 2021
  • ENG-613C: Graduate Writing Workshop: Prose Writing the Senses