The Problem with Apu

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The Problem with Apu is a Problem with America

The Simpsons is a great show. But Apu sucks. For a variety of reasons — including the fact that there’s so little representation of South Asians on tv in the first place, and that the depiction of Apu as simultaneously the perfect model minority and immigrant, and the depiction of him as a joke that encompassed all stereotypes about South Asians popular in the early 90s — I have problems with the creation of Apu. With Hari Kondabolu’s new documentary The Problem With Apu coming out, I found myself thinking about my own personal problems with Apu, and wrote a bit about some of these problems for The Establishment. Some (paraphrased) snippets from my piece for The Establishment are below, (or you can read the whole thing here) if you’re interested…

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Night Weaning My Toddler: How I Night Weaned in 3 Days

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Night Weaning My Toddler - Nursies When the Sun Shines

Hi all. This is a post about night weaning my toddler. I’m sharing this personal story in the hopes that it might help another exhausted or otherwise ready-to-night-wean-mama, because when I was preparing to night wean my son, I found it really helpful to read other mamas’ stories and tips. If you’re a mama contemplating night weaning your toddler, I sincerely hope this post is valuable to you. That said, it should go without saying that what worked for me and my family may obviously not work / be a good fit for you and yours. Cada loco con su tema! Here we go…

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Pronouncing Students’ Names Correctly Should Be a Big Deal – EdWeek

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Dr. Punita Rice for Education Week Teacher

I wrote an essay for Education Week Teacher about why pronouncing students’ names correctly is — and should be — a big deal. In the piece, I spoke about why mispronouncing students’ names is problematic (and can be a kind of microaggression), what my own experience has been with my own name, information about the ISAASE Name Pronunciation Guide, and actionable tips for teachers to improve their name pronunciation.

A brief excerpt from the piece (about how many South Asian Americans — myself included — already simplify our own names for the benefit of others, thus emphasizing the importance of teachers making the extra effort to get it right!)

I am South Asian American and spent over a decade mispronouncing my name for my own teachers to make it easier for them to say. My name is pronounced Pu-nee-tha; but for years, I said “Puh-nee-da.” I’m not alone in doing this; a lot of South Asian Americans I know offer an Americanized pronunciation of their names (Unn-jal-ee goes by “Anne-julie”), if not another name entirely (Sanket goes by “Prasad”). In spite of offering teachers what I imagined was an easier version of my name, most still pronounced it wrong (“Poo-needa?” “Paw-needa?”).

In fact, my own frustrating experiences informed the work I’m doing now: I founded an outreach organization to improve South Asian American students’ experiences in schools. When I spoke with South Asian American students about their experiences, many indicated in interviews that they didn’t feel teachers understood them or their cultures or knew how to say their names. And the importance of pronunciation goes beyond any one background or culture—it’s important for all students, no matter where they’re from.

(Excerpt from article that first appeared in Education Week Teacher on November 15, 2017. Reprinted with permission.)

If you’re interested, you can read the whole thing here.

P.S. – Segments of this piece were first published in a blog post for ISAASE, which you can read more about here if you’d like.

Babywearing and Bedsharing: Why I Babywear and Bedshare

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Babywearing and Bedsharing

My friend Natalie, who previously shared her experience of being a mother and a teacher, introduced me to her friend Emily di Febo, a mother of two kids, a teacher of almost 100 high schoolers, and a self-described imperfect parent, who thought she was already the “perfect mother” — until she actually had her first baby, and discovered that parenting in real life is actually all about messing up. 🙂 Here, Emily shares her thoughts on babywearing and bedsharing.

Since attachment parenting and babywearing and bedsharing (and anything on the internet related to parenting styles in general) tend to be somewhat controversial, I want to include a little disclaimer: Regardless of what style of parenting you believe in, I hope if you read this post, you’ll do so with an open mind (as my friend Priska likes to say, there are #SoManyWaysToLive), and if you choose to comment, that you’ll do so with civility. In any case, I hope that this post on babywearing and bedsharing is interesting, inspiring, and informative for anyone reading. Here’s Emily…

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“Your Parents Didn’t Immigrate For You To Mispronounce Your Own Name”

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Pronouncing Your Own Name Wrong

Have you come across the sentiment: “your parents didn’t immigrate just for you to mispronounce your own name?”

One variation of this sentiment appeared from Twitter user @Zablizzle (as seen on the Instagram account for @the_indian_feminist):

“Your parents didn’t immigrate across an ocean for you to mispronounce your own name so it fits better in someone else’s mouth. #stop” (1/2)

“I’m talking abt how ppl adjust their names when they’re meeting new ppl in school, work etc settings so it will be ‘easier'” (2/2)

And a follow-up appeared on my Instagram feed from @the_indian_feminist (that I love, by the way), which screenshotted those Tweets and added:

“I know it’s hard to stop, I kept letting people mispronounce my name for so long until I realized I started INTRODUCING myself in the mispronounced version. That got me fucked up. Ever since I just tell people if they’re saying it wrong, and it’s been great.”

I can relate so much to this, because for literally over a decade, I pronounced my own name wrong. And if I’d heard this sentiment while growing up, I think it’s possible that it might have impacted me in a way that maybe could have resulted in my saying my own name right. So hearing this kind of advice might be important for a lot of people.

But I hate that the way it’s framed seems to shame South Asian (and other) kids who engage in this behavior.

A lot of kids adjust their own name pronunciation in an effort to make their own experiences growing up easier (especially for those kids who are growing up in areas that are less-than-diverse).

Cultural identity and acceptance is a journey. And for a lot of South Asian American kids (and other kids too!), they may just not be ready, or “far along” enough on that cultural identity journey to embrace pronouncing their own names the way their parents might say it. Or, they might have any other number of reasons for not saying their name correctly.

I think rather than shaming kids, we should encourage them to embrace their identities and cultures and roots — but not at the cost of shaming them for where they’re at now.

The Name Pronunciation Guide for K-12 teachers is an example of a resource that’s meant to help improve teachers’ pronunciation, and in so doing, maybe remove one of the factors that might influence/lead some kids to mispronounce their own names. Tools like this can help equip educators to do their best with pronouncing “difficult” (ok, foreign) names correctly.

At the same time, it’s critical to remember that kids all have different reasons for wanting to pronounce their names the way that they pronounce them.

P.S. – Add me on Instagram here, and on Twitter here.

A Chat with Poet Pavana Reddy

Punita RiceCulture

Pavana Reddy mazadohta

Pavana Reddy (who you may already be following on Instagram — she’s also known as @mazadohta!), is an amazing, beautiful, inspiring poet. You can sample her lovely poetry on her Instagram page (here), hear it on Anoushka Shankar’s album Land of Gold, or read it in her first book, Rangoli.

Pavana Reddy - Light a few candles, burn a few bridges - Pavana Reddy

I got to connect with and interview Pavana for ISAASE’s Be Inspired project. We had a touching, earnest conversation about her experience of internalizing a sense of otherness growing up Brown in Canada, and about how the pain of losing her sister to suicide changed her writing. She also shared why she feels it’s so important for young people to share their feelings.

The English teacher in me is happy to have connected with such a talented rising poet, and the human being in me is so grateful I had the opportunity to connect with this beautiful soul; this was one of the most personal interviews I had a chance to do for the project, and I’m honored she was willing to share her story with me.

I hope you’ll check out the full interview if you’re interested. Below is an excerpt.

“…I wish I had the language I have now to have been able to save my sister from the pain she silently carried for years. After her death, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. My teachers were not as accessible as they should have been, and coming from such a small town also kept me from speaking to my peers; so I turned to books for company. I would read so much that the characters would become my friends, and that helped me deal with my sense of disconnect. I realized I wasn’t in alone if how I felt, and that brought me a lot of comfort.”

If you’d like to read, the full interview is here.

P.S. – More of Anoushka Shankar’s music here, and here, and here’s an interview with Natasha Sumant of Gundi Studios.

Happy Diwali!

Punita RiceTeaching

Happy Diwali!

Thursday of this week is Diwali (also spelled Divali, and sometimes called Deepavali/Deepawali). Diwali is an important cultural (and religious) holiday, and it’s celebrated by over a billion people on Earth. If you’re teacher, this probably means many of your students and staff members are celebrating, too. Which means it’s probably also worth considering teaching about Diwali. So if you’re teaching about Diwali (and I hope you are), I hope this post is helpful for you!

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A Chat with Lady Pista

Punita RiceCulture

Inspired by Lady Pista - Recording Artist and DJ - Full Interview with Punlearning

Have you heard of Lady Pista? Sumangala Narendrakumar (aka Lady Pista) is a recording artist and DJ whose music is a blend of dancehall, electro-house, and world music. A couple months ago, I reached out to Lady Pista to connect about the ISAASE Be Inspired project, which aims to inspire young South Asian Americans by sharing diverse profiles and stories of success (especially success that doesn’t fit stereotypes of South Asian achievement!). She shared some lessons she’s learned along her journey navigating the entertainment industry as a South Asian woman. Here are two of my favorite pieces of advice she shared…

On self-motivation:

“You have to remember that you are the biggest vehicle to your own success.”

On following your passion and carving out your own destiny:

“We are all told that the arts isn’t a career and we need to find a suitable role in society and fit the mold. What if your mission wasn’t to follow the pack? What if it was to break boundaries so our communities can evolve?”

I loved getting to know Lady Pista, and chatting about her experience of pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, challenges she’s faced along the way, and her advice for young people pursuing a similar path. If you’re interested, you can read the full interview here, and you can hear some of her music at her website.

P.S. – Her 5-track EP “Imma Pista” releases next month!