3 Profound South Asian poetry books we’re reading this winter
By Kulfi Bites Team
The holiday break is a time of rest, chai, and meditative reads. What better way to do that than curling up with a poetry collection by a South Asian poet? We are excited to see emerging South Asian poets across the diaspora, becoming older siblings and mentors to South Asians of all ages. They normalize and speak up about a variety of subject matter that are only spoken about in hushed tones in South Asian households—mental health and sexuality, to name a few. Here are 3 South Asian poets that you should read today or add to your winter break ‘To Be Read’ list.
1. Weaving moments from Partition to present day, If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar is a powerful read.
photo credit: @caseyrosereads
In this imaginative debut poetry collection, Fatimah Asghar nakedly captures the experiences of being a young Pakistani Muslim woman in America by braiding together personal and marginalized people's histories.
“when I see you my compass
is brown & gold & blood
my compass a muslim teenager
snapback & high-tops gracing
the subway platform”
Through a multimedia format including a crossword puzzle, Fatimah Asghar creates a generational perspective on what it means to be a South Asian person whose ancestors witnessed Partition. If They Come For Us (2018) speaks to the experience of resting at the junction between cultures and moments in time.
2. When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur is an impactful story in verse that explores feminism, mental health, & more.
photo credit: @bookstagr.em
Jasmin Kaur’s stunning debut novel is a collection of poetry, illustrations, and prose. When You Ask Me Where I’m Going (2019) explores what it means to be a young woman living in a world that doesn’t always hear her and tells the story of Kiran as she flees a history of trauma.
“you catch the corner of a mirror and can’t help but notice the strand of hair. always bolder. always louder than before but you tell yourself that there are flowers growing from your skin.”
The line "I will not italicize all the parts of myself that make no sense to you" from the poem code-switch was a profound part of the book. For those who don't typically read poetry, there's a feeling of familiarity and comfort in Kaur's words.
3. An indie-published memoir in poetry form that explores what it means to be unconstrained: Burnt Bones and Beautiful Butterflies by Jerusha Mather.
photo credit: @bookgraphy9
There are aspects of Jerusha Mather’s journey which have been unusual. Through Burnt Bones and Beautiful Butterflies (2020), she hopes that the reader will gain a glimpse of perspectives of a life lived within some physical restraints from cerebral palsy, but unbound by those constraints.
Your born physique
Brings radiant delight
To the sun
Without the brown heavy paint on your face”
Accompanied by lovely illustrations by David Kennett and Anjana Jain, we get to see Jerusha Mather’s lyrical insight on a variety of experiences, objects, and wonders. Mather captures the condition of human life: seeking answers revealed with time and reveling in the beauty of nature and the small moments we replay.
Cover photo credit: Samia Abbasi, @samiabossee