kaya publishes books of the asian pacific diaspora


An Excerpt from our Teaching Guide for book of the other

​​Theme: Institutional Racism

Truong Tran explores the effects of institutional racism as a professor of Creative Writing in higher education, along with documenting the hierarchies implicit in the position of an “adjunct” faculty member. As the son of Vietnamese refugees, Tran has a unique take on the English language and always questioned grammatical rules when learning the conventions of English. This experience allows him to hold his ground in educational settings that were not built for people of color like him. In writing about navigating his ‘otherness’ in these institutions, he expresses his resiliency against countless acts of racism, at the institutional and language level.

From book of the other: “everyday you write the same poem. you tell the same story. list the same facts you say this is the truth. these are the facts. still your truths are interpreted as lies. They do not call them outright lies. that would mean that they are lying. and so they claim their side of the story is not so easily defined. they say its nuanced and complicated. Like when they claimed they gave you an anonymous grant. an anonymous act of generosity. until one day years later they sent you an email to remind of the gratitude still owed in full. or when they rejected you yet again for a job you’ve been doing for over a decade. you are a lecturer in their house and therefore the working class in their house. Without saying you need to know your place in our house. they are saying this place by the table. standing by the table. this is your place. ” (22).
“somewhere in between the past and present somewhere in between the you and the i somewhere in between the immigrants tongue the American vernacular somewhere somehow someone will question the language.  the grammar of this text. somebody will query the use of tense. how do you lineate this past this present when this happened. when this happens when this is happening. even now.” (89).

Discussion Questions

What are some instances of institutional racism that Tran names?
What makes institutional racism different from more overt forms of racism? Is one more impactful or dangerous than the other?

Let us know if you would like a desk copy of book of the other, and we’ll send you the teaching guide and other resources as well! Truong Tran is available for classroom visits this Spring! Contact us at neela@kaya.com for more info!

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