- "Strangers" of the Academy: Asian Women Scholars in Higher Education
"Strangers" of the Academy: Asian Women Scholars in Higher Education is an influential, multilayered book that provides a range of perspectives to recognize the lived experiences of Asian immigrant and Asian American women faculty in the United States and Canada. As the title suggests, the book depicts the struggles of these women in the university setting because of their gender, ethnicity, and/or [End Page 238] immigrant status. The book also showcases their triumphs and the strategies that these women have used to overcome the hardships they have encountered.
The book includes fifteen essays that are divided into four parts. In part 1, "Asian Female Scholars in Context," three essays present a general overview using both national data and personal narratives to contextualize and theorize the experiences of Asian women scholars. For example, chapter 1 demonstrates that while Asian women have made great strides in obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees, they continue to be underrepresented as full-time faculty and as upper-level administrators. As demonstrated in chapter 2, even though the rate of graduate level participation is similar among Asian men and women in the science, math, and engineering (SME) fields, Asian males considerably outnumber that of Asian females in SME faculty positions. Chapter 3 and many of the following chapters offer explanations for such trends, such as conditions in the academy and larger American society that perpetuate the marginalization of and discrimination against women of color. Part 2, "Teaching, Mentoring, Advising, and Securing Tenure," includes four chapters that address the nature of academic work among Asian female faculty. These chapters present a collection of stories that provide much detailed insight on their jobs, including struggles with a second language and others' perceptions of non-English languages, the value of mentorship and locating one's own identity, the complex relationships in dealing with students of similar backgrounds, and strategies for when tenure and promotion are denied for unjust reasons. Part 3, "Gaining Voice, Forming Identity," consists of personal accounts of how Asian female faculty have negotiated their multiple identities and workplaces, and arrived at a more conscious awareness of themselves. These chapters depict a range of struggles and how Asian women faculty underwent personal transformations and realizations about their identity and their unique contributions because of their Asian identity. Finally, part 4, "Building Bridges, Building the Future," offers three examples of how Asian female scholars can transform their immediate work environment and the larger academy. These include practicing global pedagogy, cross-cultural mentorship, and making a personal commitment to social change.
Despite their seemingly tremendous strides in their educational pursuits, Asian women continue to encounter considerable sexism and racism because of the negative images surrounding what it means to be an Asian female. Stereotypes such as the subservient, nonconfrontational helper, the sexualized "exotic Oriental," or "cute girl" have made it especially difficult for Asian female academics to thrive in their workplaces. Even the image of a "model minority" masks the everyday challenges Asians confront in the university setting. As evidence, Asian females continue to be underrepresented in the academy with one of the lowest tenure rates among all ethnic groups (Hune, 1999). The book further documents multiple examples of their everyday difficulties: occasions of sexual harassment, expectations to take on more secretarial tasks in comparison to their male counterparts, and lacking respect from students. Attempts to challenge stereotypical views sometimes resulted in further labeling as "angry women of color" rather than serious attention to their complaints. As the book reveals, many Asian women feel silenced in articulating their hardships because of the ways they have been quieted in their workplaces in the past. "Strangers" of the Academy gives voice to the many that lack the support to speak out and the audience to listen.
As an Asian female scholar, I share in the authors' struggles and celebrations. Like most [End Page 239] Asian female professors, I work in an institution that is predominantly White and I represent...