Diversity & Representation Initiative

Diversity & Representation Initiative

ISAASE’s focus on improving South Asian American students is demonstrated in the ongoing Diversity & Representation Initiative, which seeks to help provide diverse stories and representations of South Asian American cultures, experiences, and voices. Through this initiative, we hope to elevate platforms that highlight this diversity.

Why do Diversity & Representation Matter?

“How impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.”
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Author

When world-renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was a child, she says she wrote stories in which all of her characters were “white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out,” in spite of the fact that Adichie herself “lived in Nigeria, and… had never been outside Nigeria.”

Growing up in Nigeria, Adichie didn’t have firsthand experience of snow, and she certainly never discussed weather. But she “wrote exactly the kinds of stories [she] was reading… what this demonstrates… is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.” Adichie herself “had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them, and had to be about things with which [she] could not personally identify.”

SELECTED PROJECTS

Below is a sampling of projects under our Diversity & Representation Initiative.

The #BrownBooksProject is an effort to increase diversity in book lists offered in schools. This effort is in part to alter representation for students, as well as to increase cultural proficiency of teachers. ISAASE’s specific aim is to increase the prevalence of books related South Asian Americans, their diverse experiences, cultures, and voices. This project is part of ISAASE’s larger mission to improve South Asian American students’ overall experiences in school.

The ISAASE’s Be Inspired (#ISAASEinspired) Project is an effort to present the next generation of South Asian Americans with vignettes of South Asian American role models: individuals who have achieved various forms of success, in order to inspire young South Asian Americans, and to normalize and validate their diverse aspirations through representation.