Russian-American journalist to discuss justice, democracy at ASU

Activist and bestselling author Masha Gessen to speak at the 22nd Annual John P. Frank Memorial Lecture on April 11

Portrait of Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen.

Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen.


The School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University will celebrate the 22nd annual John P. Frank Memorial Lecture with Masha Gessen as the featured speaker at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11. During the lecture, Gessen will discuss “The State of Democracy and the Pursuit of Justice.”

Gessen is one of the most trenchant observers of modern democracy, and is a journalist, activist and bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning "The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia." Gessen has covered political subjects ranging from Russia to autocracy to LGBT rights to Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, among others, and their understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled.

A New York Times bestseller, "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin" is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to his own people and to the world. In "The Future Is History," Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy, against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all.

"Institutions function in relationship to one another, so when you have an institution that is being destroyed, the system begins to tear," Gessen said.

On a parallel track, Gessen has been a science journalist, covering AIDS, medical genetics and mathematics. Gessen's 2008 book "Blood Matters: From Inherited Illness to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene" explores the way genetic information is shaping the decisions we make — not only about our physical and emotional health, but about who we marry, the children we bear, even the personality traits we long to have.

Gessen's book "Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century" has been described as “an engrossing examination of an enigmatic genius” that pulls back the curtain on elusive Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman. Famously, Gessen was dismissed as editor of the Russian popular science magazine Vokrug Sveta for refusing to send a reporter to observe Putin hang-gliding with Siberian cranes.

A regular contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair and Slate, among other publications, Gessen is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Gessen has taught at Amherst and Oberlin Colleges, and currently serves on the faculty at Bard College. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship, the Hitchens Prize and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary, Gessen has lived in New York since 2013 after more than 20 years as a journalist and editor in Moscow.

The John P. Frank Memorial Lecture series honors the memory of lawyer John P. Frank (1917–2002), recognized as part of the team that argued the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966. The case established the Miranda warning that requires police to inform suspects of their right to legal counsel.

"The John P. Frank lecture series shines a light on inequities and injustice towards a more just and equitable future. It represents the very best of what we aspire to do at the School of Social Transformation. This year we are truly fortunate to share in the wisdom and insight of Masha Gessen during this vexed historical moment, and after the turmoil of the years leading up to it," said Camilla Fojas, director of the School of Social Transformation at ASU.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and AZ Humanities. The event will be live-streamed on YouTube on April 11, and it is free of charge and open to the public.

Visit for more information about this event. Register here.

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