Travel author Anu Taranath wants Western travelers to be thoughtful and deliberate when they visit far-off lands.
A University of Washington professor and a daughter of immigrants who grew up between two distinct cultures, Taranath offers a unique perspective on international travel. It is one of her inspirations to write “Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World.”
Her 2019 book was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, bronze winner in Travel (Foreward Indies Book Award) and finalist for the Wishing Shelf and Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Taranath will talk about “Beyond Guilt Trips” and mindful international travel as a guest in Sno-Isle Libraries’ Open Book visiting author series at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 1. Please register online for this Zoom webinar.
At the UW, Taranath teaches about global literature, race and equity, and directs study-abroad programs on human-rights themes.
“I’ve taught about global issues, race, gender, identity and equity to thousands of students, presented at high-profile as well as more humble events, and collaborated with social change agents and innovative thinkers in 10 countries,” Taranath said. “Courses that I teach are centered around global literatures and issues of identity, migration, race, sexuality, colonialism, feminism, ethical travel and inclusive teaching.”
Taranath believes that by sharing engaging personal travel stories and raising thought-provoking questions about identity, race and cultural differences in “Beyond Guilt Trips,” prospective travelers will gain the tools to better understand “the uncomfortable feelings about who we are, where we come from, and how much we have.”
Taranath suggests actions travelers can take to improve their accountability and connection before heading overseas.
“We often get ready for a trip by finalizing logistics and physically packing. While these activities are necessary, I suggest we also take some time to consider the metaphorical luggage we carry with us: our intentions, hopes, nervousness and identities. This is critical action,” she said.
“We are, of course, traveling in an unequal world, and are bound to feel a range of emotions about this. Many travelers I meet have not had much opportunity to ask themselves questions about what it means to be them in an unequal world at home, let alone on the other side of the planet.
“My book offers guidance for travelers to be more reflective and socially aware so that … we have more tools to connect with people and make the most of our trip.”
Taranath says “Beyond Guilt Trips” is meant to be read and discussed with friends, classmates and colleagues. It’s more than a thoughtful read. It’s being used as an anti-racist training tool; a professional development book for educators; a textbook on diversity, race and equity; a resource for the travel industry; and a book club selection across the country.
“I often draw on my personal experience as a way to connect with and amplify the voices of those who have historically not been heard,” Taranath said. “As a scholar and academic, I also know that racial equity work is challenging, emotional, institutional and personal.”
Besides teaching, Taranath gives keynote speeches, trainings, presentations and consulting on race, equity and diversity. Clients include educational institutions, government agencies, community organizations and others.
“I partner with clients for the long haul and strive to build inclusivity and collaboration, inviting as many people into the conversation as possible,” she said.
Taranath has received the Seattle Weekly’s “Best of Seattle” designation, the University of Washington’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and multiple Fulbright fellowships.
Taranath is also serving her fourth term as a member of Humanities Washington’s statewide Speakers Bureau in which she discusses beauty, bias and belonging with “Tangled: Why Your Hair Matters to Society.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic kept everyone at home, Taranath said, “I travelled across the state to work with librarians, educators, retirement home residents, and many others interested in better understanding our complex world.”
Open Book is supported by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.