Michelle Kuo was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to immigrants from Taiwan. She attended public schools from kindergarten through high school. After graduating with a degree in Social Studies and Gender Studies at Harvard College, she joined Teach for America and moved to the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Michelle taught English at an alternative school for kids who were expelled from other schools.
At Harvard Law School, Michelle worked as a student attorney at the Criminal Justice Institute, a domestic violence and family mediation clinic, and the Education Law Clinic/Trauma Policy Learning Initiative. A Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, Michelle received the National Clinical Association's award for her advocacy of children with special needs.
Michelle worked as an immigrants' rights lawyer at Centro Legal de la Raza, located in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California. She advocated for tenants facing evictions, workers stiffed out of their wages, and families facing deportation. Supported by a Skadden Fellowship, Michelle's clients included day laborers, restaurant workers, gardeners, nannies, and home care workers.
Michelle clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan at the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit. Among the troubling cases that she worked on was U.S. v. Preston, in which the police coerced a confession from an 18 year old with severe disabilities who lived on a Native American reservation.
Michelle has also taught courses at San Quentin through the Prison University Project, the only college-degree granting program at a state prison in California. There, she met some of the most motivated students in her life.
Currently, Michelle teaches in the History, Law, and Society program at the American University of Paris on issues related to race, punishment, immigration, and the law. She won the 2016 Board of Trustees Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Michelle is married to the wonderful Albert Wu, a historian of Europe and East Asia.