Connecting Cultures on Campus
justFeatures: What inspired you to start Jaded?
Dan Truong: I worked on Where The Children Play for both semesters last year, and my time there opened me up to a lot of different voices on campus. But there was one thing in particular that really struck me—when we were going through pieces to be included in the publication, there was one by Tom Phan ’14, and his piece was about what it meant to be a Vietnamese-American and what it means to be a childhood immigrant, and it was really powerful to me.
But the thing was, it was the only kind of piece in that whole issue that talked about those kind of topics or emotions, and I really wished that there was a whole magazine or publication dedicated to things like this. I thought it was such a shame that there was just one piece out of so many.
JF: How would you describe the theme of the magazine?
DT: Basically we aim to publish art, stories, poems...that represent what it means to live in America’s melting pot culture—so basically, what it means to live in a multi-ethnic society, and what it means to live in a society that’s essentially built off of immigrants. … It seems pretty narrow at first, but it’s actually really broad—the whole culture is made by immigrants, whether you’re a minority or part of the majority. We all have to interact in some way with what it means to be an immigrant and immigrant issues.
JF: What role do you see Jaded playing at Brandeis?
DT: What I see it as being is a place where people can express themselves creatively or artistically about issues that have actually been in the forefront lately, in terms of race issues or social issues. I see it as a way for people to just vent about whatever they want, related to these issues—a venue for these feelings.
JF: How does Jaded differ from other literary magazines and journals on campus?
DT: There’s not much difference, other than our specific goals and aims, and I think that means a lot. In terms of Where The Children Play or Artemis or Gravity, for that matter, it does really have a specific theme and message. … We want to make it as open and inviting as possible.
JF: Based off your Facebook description of the magazine, what do you think it means to live in a multi-ethnic society?
DT: This is a topic that’s personal to me, since my parents came from Vietnam to get away from communism and the Vietnam War. It means to live—what I coined at the beginning of my whole conception of this magazine with my E-board—in a culture of loss. What that means is that you have this constant push-and-pull of American culture, which is so strong compared to your native culture.
How can you hold on to your values and traditions when you live in a society that’s constantly so progressive and forward-moving? That’s what it means to me—how to keep on a sense of identity when everything is working against it.
JF: How do you think Brandeis, as a community and as a school, handles these issues of multi-ethnic societies, and the melting pot in America?
DT: I think Brandeis tries really hard to foster this really great, culturally diverse campus and community, but there are a lot of times when it fails, and when it does, it fails critically. … I feel like it’s a more welcoming community than most, but because we have this label of “social justice,” the areas where it does not necessarily meet expectations are more noticeable... It’s so diverse, but it does have a long way to go, and that’s why I wanted to fill that space in with this magazine—so that we can address these sort of things, but in a creative way.
JF: What personal experiences do you have with the issues Jaded wants to address, including immigration and the American melting pot?
DT: So, I major in English, and a lot of times, personally, I feel like I’m the only diverse voice in class in terms of the classroom itself and on the syllabus, in terms of being a different cultural perspective. A lot of times, it’s kind of alienating. There are a lot of different stereotypes about what it means to be an Asian or what you should major in or what your job should be. That’s a shame to me. I feel like more people should get involved in expressing themselves.
JF: Have you gotten any submissions or interest from other students yet?
DT: We have a bunch of interest from students. We had to to get recognized and chartered. The President of the Student Union Sneha [Walia ’15] emailed me and said that she’s really excited to get involved, and [Dean of Students] Jamele Adams said that he wants to submit something as well.
But how it’s going to work is that we’ll have two submission deadlines. With the first, we’ll read [the submissions] and give them feedback and then there will be a second, final deadline when we’ll receive final submissions.
JF: How do you see the role of art in social justice and dealing with serious issues?
DT: I think it’s really important to express yourself creatively and artistically about these issues. While we were getting this process together, a lot of things were going on in the country, in terms of Mike Brown and the whole Black Lives Matter movement and all the protests, even in Boston, where I live. And I just thought that if people had a way to channel all of this anger and all of these emotions in an artistic or creative venue, then maybe all that energy would be channeled into something beautiful and creative—maybe a nonviolent or [non]physical way to show how you’re feeling.
JF: As a senior, what are your plans for after graduation—is this something you’d want to pursue in the future as well?
DT: Yeah. The more I got involved with this process, the more I realized this is really what I love to do—gathering voices, bringing people together under a common cause or bigger ideal. That’s definitely something I would love to pursue on campus and beyond in terms of immigration rights and the rights of Asian-Americans. It’s something I’m really passionate about.
JF: How does your own family feel about you starting this publication on campus?
DT: I really haven’t told my family, I’ve only told my sister and she seemed to really dig it. I think they would think it’s cool.