Cover of Academic Outsider by Victoria Reyes
Academic Outsider
Victoria Reyes


July 2022
184 pages.

Paperback ISBN: 9781503632998
Ebook ISBN: 9781503633681

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Excerpts and More

Honorable Mention for the 2022 Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award, sponsored by the Association for Humanist Sociology.

Gold Medal in the Essay Category for the 2023 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs).

Winner of the 2023 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title, sponsored by the American Library Association.

Many enter the academy with dreams of doing good; this is a book about how the institution fails them, especially if they are considered "outsiders."

Tenure-track, published author, recipient of prestigious fellowships and awards—these credentials mark Victoria Reyes as somebody who has achieved the status of insider in the academy. Woman of color, family history of sexual violence, first generation, mother—these qualities place Reyes on the margins of the academy; a person who does not see herself reflected in its models of excellence.

This contradiction allows Reyes to theorize the conditional citizenship of academic life—a liminal status occupied by a rapidly growing proportion of the academy, as the majority white, male, and affluent space simultaneously transforms and resists transformation. Reyes blends her own personal experiences with the tools of sociology to lay bare the ways in which the structures of the university and the people working within it continue to keep their traditionally marginalized members relegated to symbolic status, somewhere outside the center.

Reyes confronts the impossibility of success in the midst of competing and contradictory needs—from navigating coded language, to balancing professional expectations with care-taking responsibilities, to combating the literal exclusions of outmoded and hierarchical rules. Her searing commentary takes on, with sensitivity and fury, the urgent call for academic justice.

About the author

Victoria Reyes is Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender & Sexuality Studies at University of California, Riverside. She is the author of multi-award-winning book Global Borderlands (Stanford, 2019), which was named a 2020 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title.

"This courageous and visionary work boldly reclaims space for women of color and others who have been excluded and devalued by academia. It invites us to reimagine and remake the academy with practices of love, care, and justice."

—Crystal Marie Fleming, author of Rise Up!

"Blending sociological analysis, feminist of color critique, and memoir, Reyes offers a blueprint for transforming the academy. Academic Outsider is the book I never knew I needed until I read it."

—Anthony Christian Ocampo, author of Brown and Gay in LA

"This book will be painfully familiar to many in the academy. It reveals how little progress has been made in the age of multiculturalism and diversity. A must-read for junior and senior faculty alike!"

—Mary Romero, author of The Maid's Daughter

"This book brings a level of authenticity to academia, and sociology in particular, that is a breath of fresh air. It works as an important intervention within how we see academia and who we see as exemplar academics. I praise the author for their vulnerability and their conviction—we need to better humanize scholarship and this book does just that."

—Whitney Pirtle, co-editor of Black Feminist Sociology

"A challenging and critical collection, Academic Outsider offers a timely analysis that interrogates the foundation of the "academic citizenship" that leaves many of us questioning our value rather than the logics of belonging embedded in the whiteness and wealth of academia. By weaving together personal and professional stories and sociological analysis, these incisive essays will surely spark conversation and serve as a balm for the many outsiders navigating their own pathway."

—Zakiya Luna, author of Reproductive Rights as Human Rights

"An urgent, candid, and path-breaking book. Academic Outsider uncovers the hidden curricula of academic gate-keeping practices and demonstrates how they are upheld by racial capitalism and racialized gender inequities. Without falling into a romanticized view of the margins, Reyes exposes the raw gritty effects of such practices on working-class women of color in the academy. She deftly unmasks the material conditions that make these women's lives impossible, begging the question: who belongs in academia and who does not? With careful attention to how the personal is always political, Reyes unapologetically deploys women of color feminisms to expose the normalized structures of gendered, classed, and racialized violences cloaked by disciplinary metrics of success. This page-turner of a book will resonate with those who are marginalized by the academy and those who are complicit with its operations. This book embodies intersectional public scholarship at its finest."

—Ghassan Moussawi, author of Disruptions Situations

"Not everyone is an equal citizen in the country of academia. Writing from within the borderlands of higher education in Academic Outsider, sociologist and professor Victoria Reyes describes with courage, insight, and heart about what the Ivory Tower's shadow hides. This book is must-read for anyone who truly cares about equality and inclusiveness in the academy."

—Grace Talusan, author of The Body Papers

"Academic Outsider is the kind of book that sticks with you. The kind of book that forces you to notice inequities and that would give you side-eye if you saw those inequities and tried to look away. The essays in Academic Outsider are poignant and sometimes painful to read. Yet, they are also poignant and painful in a way that leaves room for hope. The book inspires readers to recognize and embrace opportunities to resist the oppressive structures within academia and the oppressive structures that academia helps to perpetuate."

—Jessica Calarco, author of A Field Guide to Grad School and Negotiating Opportunities

"Reyes captures with poignant honesty the ways the pandemic made unavoidable the truth that we had never experienced the social world, or academia for that matter, the same way. More importantly, Reyes shows that without reckoning with these deep inequalities and the systems that exacerbate them, they will only continue to deepen their reach.... At its core, Academic Outsider offers us far more than a window into a broken system. Academic Outsider is an invitation to reimagine the world together."

—Hajar Yazdiha, Social Forces

"This is a must-read book for fellow outsiders navigating the labyrinth of academic culture, and for any academic who aspires to challenge inequity. Essential."

—M. F. Jones, CHOICE

"At a time when there is a plethora of books intended to guide graduate students and faculty through the academic world—what Reyes refers to in her book as sorts of navigational capital and unspoken rules of academic citizenship—Academic Outsider remains unique in the way that it is less a 'how-to' guide and more of a 'how does' guide. By this, I mean that Reyes's book draws on her experiences to explain to us how the academy keeps working as it does despite growing recognitions that the academic world is shaped by fundamental inequalities of racism, sexism, classism, and ableism. Reyes's book thus encompasses a range of discussions—from the politics of citation through to 'overlapping shifts' as a mother during the pandemic, academia's 'motherhood penalty,' and reimbursement culture—to show us precisely how, in personal detail, the academy remains a space of deep inequality."

—Ali Meghji, Contemporary Sociolgy