The 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Marjorie Liu ’96 at the Upper School assembly on Nov. 19. The following citation was read aloud at the Upper School assembly and highlights her creativity and accomplishments.
Marjorie Liu ’96
Distinguished Alumni Award 2020
Marjorie Liu ’96 pursued a career in law because she felt it was the smart thing to do. She built a career writing fantasy and science-fiction because that is where her passions lay. The stories her mother read her as a child and those she later read for herself fed an engaged imagination. At Lakeside she spent hours at the library browsing and hunting for good books. “The stories that I loved made me want to tell my own stories,” she says. “I always imagined myself in other worlds, and that certainly filled me with the urge to write.” It would lay the foundation for a life she could not have foreseen.
Liu earned a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages and cultures from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and attended law school at the University of Wisconsin. And while she loved the law, she says, “I just knew in my heart that this is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” She always wanted to write a novel, and after passing the bar and while looking for legal work, she wrote her first. “Tiger Eye,” a paranormal romance about two characters with special abilities, would become the first in her 11-novel Dirk & Steele series. Liu would go on to write 18 paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels, taking readers on magical and mystical adventures.
Her own unexpected journey as a writer has itself been nothing short of magical. A celebrated New York Times bestselling writer, she has many awards to her credit, and her work has been translated into at least 14 languages. Her shift from writing novels to comics came in 2005 after she wrote an X-Men tie-in novel, “Dark Mirror,” for Pocket Books, and worked up the courage to introduce herself to the head of recruitment at Marvel Comics after she heard editors liked her book.
She learned to write comics by reading scripts, Googling “how to write comics,” and through the mentorship of her editors. Her work for Marvel Comics, which began in 2008, includes “NYX,” “X-23,” “Dark Wolverine,” "Black Widow," "Han Solo", and “Astonishing X-Men,” which featured the first gay wedding in comics and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding media images of the LGBT community. She also wrote the story for the animated film “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher,” which was produced by Marvel, Sony Pictures Entertainment (Japan) Inc., and Madhouse Inc.
Her work for corporations inspired Liu to create her own book to reflect real-life social issues critical to her generation. In 2015, in collaboration with Japan-based artist Sana Takeda, she released the epic fantasy comic series “Monstress,” a story set in an alternative magic-filled Asia that confronts issues of war, racism, and slavery. Every character is female or a person of color — Liu’s response to an industry dominated by white male characters. Nominated in 2016 and 2017 for an Eisner, the comic book industry’s most prestigious recognition for achievement, “Monstress” won five in 2018, making Liu the first woman to win for best writer in the 30-year history of the award. “Monstress” has also won three Hugo Awards, science fiction’s highest honor, as well as two British Fantasy Awards and a Harvey Award.
For following her creative heart with unwavering passion and for her dedication to justice through the arts, the Lakeside/St. Nicholas Alumni Association is proud to honor Marjorie Liu ’96 with the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award.