KNPR: UNLV Professor Breaks Stereotypes While Teaching Literature

Interview with Julia Lee, author of OUR GANG

Our Gang by Julia LeeLiterature by African-American writers is woven into the greater cultural fabric of American society. But the fact that other ethnic minorities teach African-American literature still confuses some people.

Julia Lee, a daughter of Korean immigrants and a professor at UNLV, knows the reaction well.

“I’m used to getting strange looks when I walk into the classroom. I teach African-American literature. And I am Korean American,” Lee wrote in the Huffington Post recently. Her article, “Why I Teach Black Literature,” brought quite bit of attention.

Lee believes the reaction is tied to the students’ preconceived ideas.  

“I think I don’t fit the image of what they think their professor should look like,” Lee says. “If I were African-American that may not be so much of a surprise. If I were white I don’t think that would be so much of a surprise because they are used to seeing white professors.”

But Asian woman teaching Black literature isn’t that common, Lee suggests. Asian-Americans presumably should be interested in teaching Asian-American culture and literature.

“The default is, you're just going to study people you look like,” Lee told KNPR’s State of Nevada.


Published in: KNPR