Amy Yee @amyyeewrites is an award-winning American journalist, writer and poet who was based in New Delhi, India from 2006-13. She has reported from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania/Zanzibar, Australia, Myanmar, Sweden, Peru, Tibet and the U.S.
Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, National Geographic, The Guardian, The Nation, The Atlantic.com, Foreign Policy.com, International Herald Tribune, Forbes, The Lancet, Science Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Beast, Undark (science magazine at MIT), Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Globe, Ms. Magazine, Slate, ScientificAmerican.com, Global Post (US), The Progressive, Roads and Kingdoms, Afar Magazine, OnEarth.com, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Far Eastern Economic Review.com and Buddha Dharma magazine, among other publications.
She is a former staff reporter and foreign correspondent for the Financial Times, based in New Delhi and New York.
Amy is a 2019 fellow at The MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and the Logan Nonfiction Program near Albany, New York.
Her produced radio work has aired on NPR (National Public Radio) and Voice of America.
Her nonfiction book about Tibetan refugees in India, as well as Australia and Europe, was a finalist for the 2017 Restless Books $10,000 Prize for New Immigrant Writing for a debut work of nonfiction by a first-generation immigrant.
Her narrative essay about a literary walk in Delhi, India was a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2017 anthology. Her long form article about reforming Bangladesh’s garment factories was a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2016 anthology. And her article about climate change in the Sundarbans mangrove forests of Bangladesh was also a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2015 anthology.
She was a 2014 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University in New York, where she also earned a master’s degree (and learned to produce radio stories).
She has written across a range of subjects. From south Asia she writes about poverty and ways to promote human and economic development; business; business approaches to reduce poverty; clean energy; public health; arts, culture and travel. She also writes extensively on Tibet issues.
In 2014 she was a Gold Winner in the United Nations Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) journalism awards contest and her work was recognized by UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon at a gala ceremony in New York. In 2015 she was a Silver winner and in 2013 she was Bronze Winner in the UNCA awards contest. She was part of a team that won First Prize for public health reporting in the 2013 Association of Healthcare Journalists annual contest.
In 2016 she won “Outstanding Business Story” in the South Asian Journalists Association’s (SAJA) annual journalism contest for her long form analysis about reforming Bangladesh’s garment factories. In 2017 she won the SAJA award for Best Literary Non-Fiction for her essay about a literary walk through Delhi. In 2013 she was a two-time winner in the SAJA awards in the Commentary and Arts/Culture categories for articles published by the New York Times about the economic impact of intestinal worms in children in poor countries and about the world’s largest Passover Seder (in Kathmandu, Nepal) in The Atlantic.com.
Amy has been a finalist seven other times in the South Asian Journalists Association’s (SAJA) annual journalism contest in the Features, Enterprise Reporting and Business categories in 2017, 2014 and 2012.
In 2008 she was part of a global team of Financial Times reporters named finalists for Best Newspaper Story of the Year in the UK for a series on the environment.
She has received reporting grants from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, Solutions Journalism Network and the McGraw Fellowships for Business Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism New York. With support from the latter two grants she spent five months in Bangladesh writing about adaptation to climate change and reforms in the country’s garment industry. She set up all interviews, meetings, field visits and handled all research and logistics for the trips.
Her photos have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, International Herald Tribune, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic.com, Economist.com, Financial Times, The Atlantic.com, The Nation, The Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, The Lancet, Roads and Kingdoms, Voice of America (VOAnews.com), Undark and Buddha Dharma magazine.
She was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts and publishes poetry under a pseudonym.
“I’ve written more than 1,000 journalistic articles across a wide range of subjects. On this website you will find more than 150 of the longer and more interesting and memorable ones. Below are a few selected articles; under the “Articles” tab above there are dozens more.
I started out in journalism writing about books, ideas, and arts and culture, with a focus on China (I lived in Nanjing for two years). I am personally interested in social change and cultural identity. Early in my career, I wrote this article for The Christian Science Monitor about a classical music program for inner-city kids. A few years later, the founder of this remarkable program went on to win a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.
From New York I wrote a lot about business and sometimes came across articles about social change, like this Vegas story for the Financial Times about training immigrants and giving them valuable job skills. Business is a fascinating lens through which to view the world.
Today as a freelancer, my journalism focuses on human and economic development, poverty, business, and things that can improve lives, including clean energy, public health and education. I still write about arts and culture and their provocative role in the world.
Last but not least, I write frequently on Tibet issues due to my long-standing interest in cultural identity and social change. I wrote about my first encounter with the Dalai Lama in 2008 for the Financial Times here.”
New York Times
“…the tiny power plant is crucial to an ambitious attempt not only to protect Virunga — Africa’s oldest national park — from threats including armed rebels, deforestation and oil prospectors, but to jump-start the local economy and potentially help stabilize one of the world’s worst conflict zones.”
Communities near the Rukinga Sanctuary once seemed locked on a path of resource decimation. But here, at least, a global conservation plan is working.
Undark (science magazine at MIT)
Long form narrative about stopping poaching and cutting down forest for cooking fuel by creating jobs in a poor community through carbon credits.
“HERE IS WHAT a dead elephant looks like: Rib bones longer than my arm scattered across red dirt. Over here is a lower jaw, beached and desolate like the broken hull of a ship. Over there is the massive boulder of its skull. Behind the gaping eye sockets is a web of porous bone, a hideous honeycomb. Shreds of gray skin are strewn across the soil like filthy rags, and hyenas have dragged and scattered bits of the elephant’s remains over this final resting ground. The scavengers feast even on the bones, and they leave behind clumps of chalky dung that are vivid against the rust-colored soil…GO TO ARTICLE
Photo: Amy Yee
“Outstanding Piece of Literary Non-Fiction” in the 2017 South Asian Journalists Association’s (SAJA) contest; Notable Essay, Best American Essays 2017.
A walk in India’s capital with Akhil Sharma, winner of the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award
“I took the Metro across the city’s sprawl, from New Delhi, the British-designed part inaugurated in 1931, up past Old Delhi, the northern section founded by a Mughal emperor three hundred years earlier. I’ve come to nearly the end of the line, to a northwest neighborhood that tourists have no reason to visit. I had been living in Delhi nearly five years, but I would see the city in a different way: through the eyes of an author whose first book is set in the city of his early childhood and whose second book starts here before its narrator emigrates to the U.S. I’ll follow Sharma as he visits relatives and family friends in three neighborhoods of north Delhi, as though doing a walking tour of his childhood memories. We’ll be traversing different worlds, touring the love and loathing of families, the present overlaid on the past, and places and memories transformed into fiction.” GO TO ARTICLE
Photo: Amy Yee
Outstanding Business Story in the 2016 South Asian Journalists Association’s (SAJA) contest; Notable Essay, Best American Essays 2016.
Roads and Kingdoms, August 2015
“Bangladesh, whose garment industry is second only to China’s in size, is responding to both international and domestic pressure and undergoing the most radical revamping of worker safety it has ever seen. The south Asian country is almost halfway through a five-year plan to bring more than 3,500 export garment factories up to international safety standards by 2018. More than 200 of the world’s biggest clothing brands and retailers—including H&M, Walmart, Target, Zara, Marks and Spencer, Adidas, L.L. Bean, and Benetton—have pledged to do business only with factories that comply…”
Gold Winner, 2014 UNCA Awards for coverage of climate change; Honorable Mention, Best American Essays 2015:
Roads and Kingdoms, July 30, 2014
I talked to many people struggling to survive in the beautiful but harsh environment of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans, the UNESCO site and the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest that is highly vulnerable to climate change.
“One afternoon three years ago, a tiger attacked Kamal Gazi as he was fishing on a riverbank in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans. It is a miracle he is alive. The scars on his face start at the eyes and wrap around his head where black hair unevenly stripes his puckered scalp.
Gazi was fishing with a fellow villager who bravely managed to beat off 450 pounds of feline muscle with a stick. That’s how he survived an attack by one of the infamous man-eating tigers of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest contiguous block of mangroves covering southwest Bangladesh. So much for the myth that these swimming tigers attack only from behind and never in broad daylight. Gazi was lucky; at least 50 people are killed by tigers each year here.”
On the edge of a riverbank, 28-year-old Saiful Islam squats outside his thatch home where his wife and two sons, ages 2 and 4, also live. He went into the forest alone that morning and emerged with honey five hours later. Islam squeezes the chunks of honeycomb like big sponges over a battered metal pot so they drip clear streams of sweet liquid. The geometric chambers of the greyish honeycomb resemble scaly fish hunks. Islam picks dead bees out of the honey, then strains it with the blue plastic mesh of a fishing net into a plastic bottle. Two kilograms will earn him 700 taka, about $9.
Islam’s family was out of food. Honey is the quickest way to make money so he went five miles into the forest, and climbed an 18-foot tree after smoking bees from their hive.
A long sleeved shirt over his lungi, a scarf over his face, and a red string folk amulet wound around his bicep were his only protection. Even the Bangladeshi Relief International workers accompanying me remark on his courage. A gaggle of children and neighbors gather around Gazi to admire the year’s first honey harvest.
Gazi’s wife says she prays to ‘’almighty Allah’’ to keep her husband safe when he crosses the river and disappears into the mangroves.” CONTINUE READING
“Indian pop music blasted within the autorickshaw and the flimsy metal buggy chugged to a raucous dance beat as we bumped along the road to Bylakuppe. The plump, middle-aged Tibetan woman squeezed into the back seat next to me wasn’t happy. She barked something to the Indian driver in Hindi and he called back over his shoulder as he dodged a jeep roaring at us from the opposite direction. He wore plastic flip-flops but had taken them off so he pressed the pedals with his callused bare feet. “What’s the matter?” I asked her.” GO TO ARTICLE
First Place for Public Health Reporting in the 2013 Association of Healthcare Journalists contest
GlobalPost, June 25, 2013
Counter to the common perception of Bangladesh as hopelessly impoverished, the country has dramatically reduced overall child mortality in recent decades. Part of a five-part series about child mortality around the world.
“When Hashi Akhter delivered her baby on a January morning in her thatched home in Dergram Village, she knew something was wrong right away. The baby was not crying.
She couldn’t breathe. Hashi had already been in labor much of the night. As morning broke, a relative went on foot to find a health worker near this remote village more than two hours north of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.
That decision saved the baby’s life. Shefali Akhter, a 24-year-old government health assistant, is also a skilled birth attendant with special training on neonatal asphyxia, one of the largest killers of newborns in Bangladesh. (Shefali has no relation to Hashi.)
Shefali quickly cleared mucus and fluids from the baby’s mouth so that she could take her first breath in the “golden minute,” the small window of time in which decisions can mean the difference between life and death…
Counter to the common perception of Bangladesh as hopelessly impoverished, the country has made dramatic strides in reducing overall child mortality in recent decades. Bangladesh is on track to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5, which aim to reduce under-5 child and maternal mortality, respectively. In fact, Bangladesh is one of only eight countries to have reduced its under-5 mortality rate by at least two-thirds since 1990. ”
Winner for Best Commentary, 2013 South Asian Journalists Association awards
New York Times April 4, 2012
On a cool February morning in north Delhi, India, 35 third graders sat at small desks in a spartan but tidy classroom. They wore blue school uniforms and listened as their teacher asked in Hindi if they had had intestinal worms.
A third of the children raised their hands, including 9-year-old Arjun Prasad. He sometimes felt stomach pain and weakness — symptoms of severe infection — he said. A few minutes later, Arjun and his classmates were given deworming pills, and took them during the class. They were among the 3.7 million children in Delhi who have taken the pills as part of a recent campaign in India’s capital to stamp out the widespread but neglected ailment.
Intestinal worms are pervasive in the developing world and can have devastating effects. But there is growing awareness about how easy and inexpensive it is to treat worms, as well as surprising longer-term socioeconomic benefits. Research shows deworming to be extremely cost-effective: you get a lot of bang for your buck… GO TO ARTICLE
Winner in Best Arts & Culture category, 2013 South Asian Journalists Association Awards
Atlantic.com, April 12, 2012
In what has become an annual tradition, 1,100 mostly Israeli travelers gathered in Kathmandy to celebrate Passover — with plenty of kosher wine. The tradition begins with the steady influx of young Israeli backpackers. They usually travel after their required stint in the army, from age 18 to 21, and before university. Israelis come to Nepal to hike, river raft, bungee jump, hang out in cafés, and generally let down their hair, often literally…GO TO ARTICLE
New York Times, April 23, 2014
Workers at shipbuilder Western Marine, which dramatically reduced workplace injuries. Photo: Din Muhammad Shibly
“Bangladesh has more than 5,000 garment factories, but a year ago there were only 19 factory inspectors for all of them, and about as many fire and building inspectors. The disaster at Rana Plaza — which lacked permits for industrial use, and where rampant local corruption had allowed extra floors to be added illegally — also highlighted the wider problem of unsafe construction. Inspecting buildings is more expensive and complicated than other checks because it requires engineering analysis and possibly lab testing of foundation materials.
Improving garment factories is imperative for Bangladesh. After the Rana Plaza collapse, the backlash against global retailers and the “made in Bangladesh” label was harsh and swift. Yet ordinary Bangladeshis would suffer if apparel companies pulled out of the country. Bangladesh is the second largest maker of “ready-made garments” after China. The industry helped annual economic growth reach 6 percent in recent years; garments represent more than 80 percent of the country’s exports. Bangladesh’s garment factories employ about 3.8 million people, most of whom are women…
The challenge then is how to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh meaningfully and sustainably with limited resources. This is an enormous, highly complicated task, but ambitious plans were put in place in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse… GO TO ARTICLE
Despite popular belief, white kids aren’t the only ones on the spectrum. Minority families often miss out on treatment or get left out of research — an ethical failure. New projects are illuminating autism’s diverse shades.
TheAtlantic.com / Spectrum
“…[these] stories hint at some reasons why minorities are underrepresented in studies of autism and have little access to treatment options. Broad socioeconomic, cultural, and language barriers keep minority families from participating in both domains. New studies are delving into ways to recruit and retain minorities in research, as well as developing better screening, support, and treatment programs, all of which can bridge the gaps that lead to the exclusion of these groups.” GO TO ARTICLE
Photo: Working together: Amalia Contreras (left) of the California-based nonprofit Fiesta Educativa, answers Patricia Sanchez’s questions about her child’s autism. Photographs by Jenna Schoenefeld
India’s medical system needs to be more responsive to the needs of women who have been victims of interpersonal violence, say experts and campaigners.
“Nearly every day at least one woman comes to Mumbai’s public hospitals seeking treatment for bruises, burns, or poisoning. In the past, such injuries were usually treated as accidents by doctors and victims who tacitly knew they were the result of domestic or sexual violence. “Everyone knows that a woman doesn’t accidentally drink half a bottle of pesticide”, said Padma Deosthali, director of the Center for the Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Mumbai. “It’s a conspiracy of silence.” In India, it is not uncommon for women to poison themselves in an attempt to escape abuse, but the reasons behind this desperate act are often glossed over by medical staff…” GO TO ARTICLE
Wall Street Journal Asia, February 27, 2009
Gandhi was a source of inspiration for Martin Luther King Jr. GO TO ARTICLE
The King family has a long, but little-known, history in India. Martin Luther King Jr. was deeply influenced by Gandhi’s freedom struggle and spent a month in India from February 1959 learning firsthand about his doctrine of nonviolent resistance against British rule. GO TO ARTICLE
The Nation, February 25, 2009
For the pro-Tibet movement, better nonviolence training and education have been critical to stepping up the campaign in the hills of Dharamsala and far beyond. GO TO ARTICLE
Although it is their winter holiday, about sixty Tibetan students are attending this two-week workshop on “active nonviolence,” led by the Active Non-Violence Education Center (ANEC) in Dharamsala, the northern Indian hill town that has been home to the Dalai Lama for nearly fifty years. Over the next few days ANEC will lead a workshop based on the teachings of Gene Sharp, who outlined 198 methods of nonviolent action in his 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action... GO TO ARTICLE
The Dalai Lama’s Embrace
Financial Times, March 20, 2008
…The Dalai Lama asked what part of China my parents hailed from and exclaimed “Ni hao”, or “hello” in Mandarin. Only talks between Tibetan leaders and their Chinese counterparts would resolve the conflict engulfing his homeland, he offerred. Then Tibet’s spiritual leader clasped me to him and gave me a bear hug… READ MORE
In New Delhi, Sampling India’s Regional Food
New York Times
Like those of the other 27 states, the cafeteria at Andhra Pradesh’s center in the capital serves its regional cuisine.
Each of India’s 28 states has its own government-run house for state affairs, known as a bhavan, in the bustling capital city of New Delhi. And most of the bhavans have a canteen that specializes in regional cuisine, whether it’s the coconut-infused dishes of the southwest state of Kerala, or the Chinese-style momos, or dumplings, of Sikkim in the northeast… GO TO ARTICLE
Showing and saving arts as old as centuries in India
Travels to the heart of Udaipur in northern India, a city known for royal palaces, luxury hotels, and traditional arts. GO TO ARTICLE
The young puppeteer insists it’s easy. With outstretched hands, he pulls the strings on the foot-tall man at his feet. The puppet shakes its head coquettishly; wood and cloth suddenly seem human. “Try,’’ says the puppeteer, offering me the strings. I shake my head, imagining the knots I would make; I’m content to watch him work his magic… GO TO ARTICLE
Lunch with the FT: Wynn’s World
Financial Times, April 22, 2006
Lunch with Steve Wynn, the iconic founder of modern Las Vegas.
Just before I go in to see Steve Wynn, one of his staff asks if I like dogs. As soon as I enter the casino magnate’s office in Wynn Las Vegas, his new $2.7bn casino-resort, I understand the question: two German Shepherds lie by his feet under his desk. A third dog, a sleepy cocker spaniel, ambles across the plush carpet and carefully sniffs me.
Wynn, clad in black, is reading a letter at his desk. “Just a minute,” he intones. As I wait, I stroke the spaniel and look at the large Mark Rothko painting on the wall. A Basquiat hangs near by. Finally he looks up and greets me with a steady gaze. He doesn’t bother with niceties, throws a black blazer over his black turtleneck, slips on a pair of aviator sunglasses and heads off to choose one of the casino’s 22 restaurants for lunch… READ MORE