Carnegie Mellon University
February 25, 2022

Changing Expectations: One Story at a Time

CMU alumna leans on her life experiences to break stereotypes through words

By Tina Tuminella

As a curious, basketball-playing, Indian girl growing up in West Virginia, Neema Avashia is intimately familiar with the concept of paradox. 

Self-described as an “activist, writer, reader, thinker and caregiver,” Neema challenges traditional notions of what it means to be from Appalachia by telling personal stories.

“I want people to know that there are immigrants in Appalachia,” says Neema, a 2001 Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Science graduate with degrees in professional writing and anthropology and history. “There were really lovely and beautiful parts of that experience, and there were really hard parts, and both of those things can be true.”

Neema is a published author and transformational educator. Since 2002, she has been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where she teaches ethnic studies.  

As a queer and South Asian teacher and writer, she’s all too aware of Appalachian stereotypes — few of which she fits. So in her new book “Another Appalachia,” she encourages readers to experience more complex and varied versions of this storied United States mountain region beyond what they often see in mainstream media.

Read more about Avashia’s journey