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Movers & Shakers: The Honor Roll

Written by Leslie Katz | Illustrations by Olivia Wise

Award-winning leaders in science and the arts — culinary, literary, cinematic and visual — are in the spotlight.

Michelle Monje

Michelle Monje

The Stanford University pediatric oncologist and neurologist, 43, is one of 2021’s 25 MacArthur Fellows, winning a $625,000 “genius” grant to continue her work to improve treatments for children with brain cancer. “I’m really hopeful that this award will help me push past boundaries and make further progress,” she told Channel 7 News. Since 2011, she’s headed the Monje Lab, where her focus is on creating new therapies for youngsters with a fatal disease called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). The Bay Area-bred scientist, a competitive figure skater as a youngster, went to high school in Danville and got an undergraduate degree from Vassar before earning medical and doctorate degrees from Stanford. Married to Stanford neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth, the mother of four recently tweeted: “As long as I have been in neuro-oncology, it has never gotten easier to lose a patient. Sometimes there is no choice but to let a patient into the warmth.”


Serena Chow & David Fisher

Serena Chow and David Fisher

The husband-and-wife chefs are behind Marlena, the Bernal Heights eatery that opened in 2020 during the pandemic — first serving fancy picnic fare, and then seasonal four-course tastings that recently earned them a Michelin star. The guide said of the pair: “Their fine dining pedigree is apparent in the cooking, deftly marrying simplicity with sophistication.” Fisher, in charge of savory dishes, and Chow, a San Mateo native who creates the sweets, met while cooking at Pearl & Ash in New York. Their first joint ownership venture offers specialties such as kampachi with melon, cucumber and lovage; pork loin with apricot, kale and garbanzo; and pistachio cake with rhubarb jam, strawberry and jasmine cream. The couple’s “dream restaurant,” in a Victorian near Precita Park, has a setting as appealing as the food. “It’s just a very quintessential San Francisco building. If we want to truly embrace upscale California-influenced cuisine, what better place to do it,” Chow told Eater SF.


Joanna Hopng

Joanna Ho

Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma is the latest picture book from the Bay Area educator, designer and mom whose January 2021 debut Eyes That Kiss in the Corners hit the New York Times bestseller list soon after its release. Ho, whose parents are immigrants from China and Taiwan, says she wrote Eyes because she had a difficult time finding inclusive holiday books for her newborn son and because she believes “all kids need to see themselves and others in books.” She told the website KidLit411 that she dedicated the book — which was inspired by her own childhood feelings of envy and insecurity about her looks — to her daughter, who, she said, “I hope never doubts her own beauty.” The author, who’s also a high school vice principal, chocolate chip cookie lover, outdoor adventurer and reader of diverse writers, has two more picture books in the works as well as a young adult novel slated for 2022 publication.


Delroy Lindo

Delroy Lindo

Known for a classy four-decade stage, TV and film career including roles in Spike Lee movies (Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Clockers and 2020’s Da 5 Bloods), the actor will receive San Francisco State University’s Alumnus of the Year honors at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on November 12. The Oakland resident, who was born in London and turns 69 this month, graduated from SF State in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in cinema, which he earned by taking correspondence classes using a pseudonym. This year, addressing the School of Cinema’s new graduates, he said, “If you are able to embrace your challenges and put them to constructive use, that’s where magic can happen.” Happy and grateful to be working during the pandemic, his recent projects include the Western The Harder They Fall, co-starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King and LaKeith Stanfield.


Sydney Cain

Sydney Cain

Also known as sage stargate, the San Francisco-born and -bred artist, one of three 2021 winners of a $10,000 San Francisco Artadia Award, has been called “a dream catcher” by independent curator Ashara Ekundayo. Yet Cain, who uses the pronoun they, is political, too. “I think about how to use materials as power instruments,” Cain said in an online video presented by the City’s Museum of the African Diaspora, which reopened in October with Cain’s solo exhibition Refutations on view. Cain, who grew up in the Fillmore and maintains a studio at Hunters Point Shipyard, creates works on paper using dye, lithography, graphite and chalk “as emblems of impermanence and transformation.” The pieces, the artist says, transform stories of suffering into remembrances of evolution and healing for people of African descent. The latest project by Cain, who has exhibited at SOMArts, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco Arts Commission and the African American Arts & Culture Complex, combines research based on their family’s genealogy while examining displacement caused by urban renewal.

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