Hello, my friends. You know what's up. Take a moment to meet the latest Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Deepa Iyer.
Who are you?
My name is Deepa Iyer. I'm a South Asian American activist, writer and former non-profit director. I'm also an avid karaoke singer (alternatively known as a mic-hog) and selfie enthusiast. Mostly, I'm lucky to be the mother of a 5-year-old who makes me laugh out loud, and gives me lessons on patience every day.
What are you?
A perennial multi-tasker! I went to law school but haven't used my law degree in the traditional sense very much. Over the past 15 years, I've led a non-profit, advocated around civil and immigrant rights issues at local and national Asian American groups, and taught undergraduate classes on Asian American communities at the University of Maryland. Since leaving South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) after a decade there, I've been writing to document the stories and experiences of South Asian communities.
Where are you?
These days, I'm usually in front of my laptop (and if I'm lucky, that would be at my favorite café's outdoor patio in Silver Spring, where I live now). I'm also a frequent rider of the Amtrak between Washington, DC and New York City. Where I would always rather be: the ocean.
Where are you from?
My love for the ocean likely comes from weekends spent at Kovalam Beach near Trivandrum, the city where I was born and raised. I moved to Kentucky from India with my family when I was 12. (That wasn't so much fun). I've lived in South Bend, Indianapolis, Arlington, Brooklyn, and Silver Spring. I seem to always be searching for a sense of home.
What do you do?
Right now, I'm thinking about, talking about, and writing about how we can make the racial justice movement in our country more inclusive, intersectional and collaborative. I just wrote a book called We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, published by The New Press, that explores the role of these communities -- which have faced tremendous levels of backlash, profiling, “othering”, hate violence, and surveillance over the past 14 years -- in shaping the direction of immigrant and racial justice movements in America. I'm also doing a fellowship at the Center for Social Inclusion, where I get to work with a team of committed advocates tackling structural racism. I tweet about these issues @dviyer.
What are you all about?
Right now, I'm excited about connecting with folks around the country through a series of book talks to lift up South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh immigrant voices and experiences. I'm about moving those of us in Asian American spaces to dialogue more about messy intra-community questions around racial identity and coalition building. I'm about learning and understanding how common experiences with structural racism and white supremacy have affected people of color in America and around the world -- and how we can find shared language and values to build our collective power. I'm also all about recovering from Executive Director-life, and figuring out how to be part of movement building work in honest, authentic and meaningful ways.
What makes you angry?
Patriarchy. When people in my own community lift up the myth of the model minority and the narrative of cultural exceptionalism. Being part of a legal system that is built on the exclusion and marginalization of communities of color. The restrictions on non-profits that keep us stuck in a never-ending cycle of having to prove our worth. When we don't support and show up for each other. I think that cultivating a healthy sense of outrage can be good for the soul, especially when it is harnessed by love and hope and in service to our communities.