New American Dream: Braver Than the One Before It

Brian Tate | April 9, 2021

Click play button, above, to watch the live stream from May 26, 5-6:30 p.m.

BRAVER THAN THE ONE BEFORE IT: In Search of the New American Dream is a conversation with five major authors on what America means and can become for people long kept at its margins.

With Cathy Park Hong, Patricia Engel, Robert Jones, Jr., Laila Lalami, and Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho). Moderated by Lisa Lucas. Opening performance by Sandra Lilia Velasquez.

Date: Wednesday, May 26, 5-6:30 p.m. ET
Free Registration

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are they still the pillars of the American Dream, or does systemic racism in the U.S. demand a more radical vision?  Join us for a conversation with five major authors on what America means and can become for people long kept at its margins.


Braver Than the One Before It is the fifth of five events of the NEW AMERICAN DREAM series, presented by The WNET Group – parent to America’s flagship PBS station – between April 28 and May 26, 2021.

NEW AMERICAN DREAM is the second series of virtual town halls that examine major issues affecting diverse communities throughout the New York City area and across the United States. The first series was Criminal Justice in America.

Each week, The WNET Group will examine systemic racism in relation to five pillars of contemporary society: voting rights, artificial intelligence and genetic data, journalism, antiracism, and cultural narratives. Our focus is on strategies and solidarity, with an understanding of history and eyes toward the future.

Curated by Brian Tate, community partnerships specialist for The WNET Group.

For NEW AMERICAN DREAM mobile reminders, text WNETDEI to 30644.
Sign up for emails about The WNET Group’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion events.


Cathy Park Hong’s work of creative nonfiction, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, won The National Book Critics Circle Award for best autobiographical book of 2020. She is also the author of the poetry collections Engine Empire, and Dance Dance Revolution, chosen by Adrienne Rich for the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Hong is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Fellowship. She is the poetry editor of the New Republic and a full professor at Rutgers-Newark University. Learn more: Cathy Park Hong

Patricia Engel is the author of Infinite Country, a New York Times Bestseller, Esquire Book Club pick, Amazon Best Book of the Month, and more. The first woman to be awarded Colombia’s national prize in literature, the 2017 Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana, she has also been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and the NEA, among others, and is the recipient of an O. Henry Award. Patricia’s books have been translated into many languages. Born to Colombian parents, she currently teaches at the University of Miami. Learn more: Patricia Engel 

New York Times-bestselling author Robert Jones, Jr., was born and raised in New York City. He received his BFA in creative writing with honors and MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Paris Review, Essence, OkayAfrica, The Feminist Wire, and The Grio. He is the creator of the social-justice social media community, Son of Baldwin. The Prophets is his debut novel.

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the U.S. Her 2014 novel, The Moor’s Account, won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her recent bestselling novel, The Other Americans, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. She is a full professor at the University of California. Her latest book, Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America, was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. Learn more: Laila Lalami

Tommy Orange is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and he was born and raised in Oakland, California. His debut novel, the national bestseller There There, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the American Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The audiobook for There There was a 2019 Audie Award finalist for Multi-Voiced Performance. Learn more: Tommy Orange

MODERATOR: A prominent leader with unparalleled passion, Lisa Lucas is an essential champion of literature. She was the youngest, first woman, and first person of color to be the executive director of the National Book Foundation. In 2020, she accepted a position to head Pantheon and Schocken Books as Senior Vice President. She is vocal about inclusivity in publishing, insisting that the word transcends boundaries to include everyone regardless of their racial, economic, or geographic background.

Performance by Lilia Velasquez

OPENING PERFORMANCE: Sandra Lilia Velasquez is a Mexican American songwriter, vocalist, and bandleader based in Brooklyn, NY. A multi-instrumentalist, she is known for her socially conscious bilingual lyrics and Latin rhythms across three musical projects: Pistolera, Moona Luna, and SLV. Originally from the border town of San Diego, CA, and raised by Mexican immigrant activists, Velasquez has dedicated her musical expression to empowering the Latinx community in the face of persistent racism and inequality.

Curated Playlist

James Baldwin: The Negro and the American Promise

Arab American Stories: A New Generation

Good Americans

Don’t miss our May 25 conversation: The Space Between Stillness and Action: A Town Hall on Recovery and Activism After the Killing of George Floyd