The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

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writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Firsthand stories of America’s strength, ingenuity and grassroots growth.

Co-author of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America

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Writer Deborah Fallows has turned her careful observations and beautiful prose to the small towns and industries that shape the United States. In her New York Times bestseller Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, Fallows documents a five-year journey across the country, profiling the grassroots re-invention rarely covered in the mainstream media.

“Our Towns will become a classic…the landscape unfurls beneath us; the language of different regions echoes in our ears. Most important, this book is a tonic for what ails us as a nation, a captivating story of energy and renewal across the land.”— Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America

Our Towns is already a national bestseller and getting rave reviews: “an eye-opening, keenly optimistic reminder of the strength of America’s vital center,” says Publishers Weekly. “An illuminating trip through parts of the country generally missed by the media spotlight … writing with lively curiosity and open minds, the couple have created a well-reported, optimistic portrait of America’s future.” (Kirkus Reviews). The America that Deb and James Fallows spent five years reporting on is one on the verge of reinvention, and the keynotes they share are uplifting, fascinating portraits of the country’s strong backbone.

Fallows sharpened her reporting stills while writing Dreaming in Chinese, a book O Magazine called “captivating.” Her approach to studying China allowed her to understand many of the idiosyncrasies that confound the West when interacting with the Chinese. As the New York Times Sunday Book Review says, “Fallows presents the common Chinese viewpoint,” adding that she “sticks to her own experiences and observations, which make her book all the more valuable.”

A Harvard graduate with a PhD in Linguistics, Fallows is also the author of A Mother’s Work, which deals with child-rearing in the working-mom age. She most recently worked in research and polling for the Pew Internet Project. Fallows’s writing on women, education, work, and travel has appeared in, among others, The Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, and Newsweek.

Speech Topics

Civic Engagement
It’s Happening HereAmerican Renewal, Ingenuity, and Innovation

Today’s dominant political refrain is that America is in a state of decline. But to author and linguist Deborah Fallows nothing could be further from the truth. Over the course of a five-year journey across the country, she (along with her husband, journalist James Fallows) discovered many surprising points of reinvention, in every region of the country—and enough to refresh the bleak national conversation to reflect a positive truth.

In this keynote, Fallows reports on the wide range of civic projects underway that are rebuilding America—a cross-section of generations, races, and political affiliations working far from the usual metropolitan hubs. You’ll hear how local heroes, community-minded action, and big dreams are signaling an end to the second gilded age. You’ll learn how real private-public partnerships, resuscitated downtowns, flourishing arts scenes, and schools—research universities, community colleges, and experimental classes—are renewing the tattered social fabric. And you’ll hear how these small, innovative, open places are producing an “archipelago of startups and reinventions.” This is the quiet revival the media can’t hear—the sound of America, in every corner, coming together again.

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Politics & Society
Think Like the Chinese ThinkUnderstanding the Culture of Modern China Through the Lens of Language

Using her experience as a trained linguist and a new student of Chinese, Deborah Fallows shows how simple words, phrases, or bits of the grammar of the Chinese language can become windows to understanding  much of the Chinese culture—their sense of romance, humor, protocol, personal relationships, and interest in foreigners, to name a few. Why, for example, does abrupt language in Chinese actually signal a closeness between friends, rather than impolite behavior? Or why do the Chinese have such trouble saying “I love you” to the ones they love the most? With fluid grace and on-the-ground experience, Fallows provides a necessary human perspective on an emerging superpower that many in the West still struggle to comprehend.

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Politics & Society
Absorbing DiversityAmerican Universities and an Increasingly International Student Body

American universities welcome international students for their diversity, perspective, and experience. Today, with growing numbers and nationalities of foreign students, campus dynamics are rapidly shifting. The new, young melting pot brings both advantages and challenges. What does it mean, for example, that there are suddenly 100,000 Chinese students, who have grown up with a largely pop-culture introduction to America and who are met by a western student body that is mostly unfamiliar with them and their country? How can the university community—faculty, staff and students of all sorts—get behind the change to understand the growing pains and pleasures? How can they help steer change in the best, positive directions toward a story of academic, social, and personal success? Fallows uses her first-hand experiences of living around the world to help scrutinize our own impressions of each other, and to move toward a more inclusive, generous context for living and working with one another.

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Corporate Culture
Understanding China for BusinessesExploring the Critical (Human) Aspects and Social Dynamics

As Western companies and their leaders think about how to do business with China, they know that part of their success depends on crucial but elusive “soft” cultural issues that are always in play. What aspects of the culture are critical to the work and social dynamic between Americans and their Chinese colleagues and competitors? How can Americans look for and interpret similarities or differences with the Chinese in human qualities like humor, respect, trust, friendship, and identity? Fallows recently lived and worked in China for three years and traveled through every part of the country. She uses her own experience of coping with the Mandarin language as one model of how to be a good observer and a sensitive interpreter inside a different culture. She describes how some of her own foibles and missteps finally led to some insights. This is a talk that can encourage your company’s people to thrive both professionally and personally, and may ultimately help your company in its mission with China.

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