Harlan Margaret Van Cao

Harlan Margaret Van Cao was born in Williamsburg, Virginia and moved to Southern California when she was ten. She loves painting and music, especially playing the piano and singing. One of her best friends is her German Shepherd puppy, Hadrian. She wants to be a producer, director, and screenplay writer. She attends UCLA and plans to study economics and philosophy, while also continuing to write. She became published during the ages of fifteen to seventeen and is currently promoting her memoir and working on a second book. 

Lan says that the agonizing labor of delivering Harlan was a foreshadowing of their intense but loving mother-daughter relationship. She was born a C-section baby with a full head of hair and was chubby and overweight by anybody’s standards but was also very happy to be alive and attached to her father.It was all of the matching stylish outfits her parents put her in that would later lead to a love of fashion in her teenage years.

Harlan went through a phase between ages ten and thirteen where she only wore either very bright clashing colors or all black. She began to sing more than ever and play the piano, both of which guided her through a turbulent high school experience, along with her travels to over fifty countries and lots of adventures with her puppies and best friends. She began to find interest in psychology, film, and mathematics. 

At fifteen years old, with the aid of her mother, she signed a contract with Penguin Random House to write her memoir, which would focus on what was important to her family: topics such as coming-of-age as a teenage girl, immigration, trauma, parenting, etc. This felt odd to her, as she had always associated memoirs with retrospect and with full-life experience: two things she was lacking. With the coaching of her mother and her agent and editors, she wrote her chapters through junior and senior year of high school, finishing officially just before the wave of COVID-19. 

She now attends UCLA in Westwood, LA and has plans to pursue a career in film and business, one day perhaps becoming a studio head and making movies about things that matter to her. She would like to live in a pretty glass house in a big city one day with a view of the forests, rivers, the ocean, and all of the skyscrapers. She also loves deers, manatees, and elephants.