Li-Young Lee was born to Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia. His maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who sought to make himself emperor. Lee's father was a personal physician to Mao Zedong, then relocated his family to Indonesia. His father spent 19 months in an Indonesian prison camp in Macau. In 1959, the Lee family fled Indonesia to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five year journey through Hong Kong and Japan, they settled in the United States.
Born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon, where her father was a restaurant owner, Marilyn (Mei Ling) Chin was educated at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop. She now teaches at San Diego State University. In addition to her own poems, she has done translations, edited Writing from the World (1985), and was featured on the 1995 television series The Language of Life, broadcast on educational television.