Diaspora and Poetry: Making yourself at home

Little Boy Blue was sent to me for free in exchange of an honest review. Thank you Jamal for the opportunity to read your work and also for reminding of the rebellion that is the Diaspora.


The word diaspora has its roots in the Greek words dia, meaning between, through or across and the speiro meaning to scatter or spread. In that sense a diaspora refers to a widely scattered population whose ‘origins’ lie in a smaller geographical location[1].

I have recently found that poetry is one of the best expressions of diasporic ‘identity’ that I have come across. I have begun to connect with diasporic poets, women and men who have no clue I exist but I still feel like somehow they are my soul-sisters and we could complete each other’s sentences if we ever met. And the Little Boy Blue is no exception, although in his interview the author, Jamal Mehmood, says he never intended his poetry to be ‘diasporic poetry’, it is the thing I picked up on! I really connected with his way of expressing the dual identities or side gaze[2] that I feel so much as someone whose home is split across two nations and multiple ethnicities.

I am obsessed with the ‘diasporic imagination’. I am obsessed with the talent that comes out of these international communities and truly believe that they are unique in their literature, art and music. For me, diasporic works of art are personal and as everything that is personal is political (#feminism -always the intersectional kind) so too is this collection of poetry. Little Boy Blue stands out in that it expresses identity differently to the mainstream drivel that lacks the language and insight to explain immigrant communities beyond the integration vs isolation paradigm (Cue David Cameron’s archaic English language classes). It is an individual act of rebellion that demands us to see identities as a third space[3], as something that is new altogether and will not be defined by the old/new or backward/forward binary of nationhood and ethnicity. Two pieces in particular brought this home to me:

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I was also pleasantly surprised at the way in which the poetry was both tender, powerful and political at the same time. This fierce tenderness is something I associate it with women poets (Rupi Kaur, Pavana, Nayyirah Waheed) and am used to men writing about other women (or daffodils a la William Wordsworth), but Jamal has taught me to not judge a book by its cover. Here is a snippet of ‘A Letter to Future Sons’ which I thought was so powerful:

‘A Letter to Future Sons’

weep, young man, weep

like your life depended on it

 

Jesus Wept

Muhammad wept

you are no messenger of God

so weep until until the walls come falling down

boy, you have a soul beneath your skin

so weep and water the ground

where your fathers are buried

for not producing enough tears

but still producing you

Jamal Mehmood


I highly recommend this debut collection, you can buy it here and check out the full collection for yourself!

[1] This definition is lazily drawn from Wikipedia, although I think that this obsession with geography can be challenged it was the most succinct one! So don’t be angry… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora

[2] The side gaze is an interesting concept that explains the ability to have and view things from dual or multiple identities (Sujata Moorti, Desperately seeking an identity: Diasporic cinema and the articulation of transnational kinship,2003)

transnational kinship

[3]Homi Bhabha refers to the ‘third space’ that is not backward or forward, old or new but “ innovative site of collaboration and contestation.”(Location of Culture 1994)

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#WriteYourResistance: Plans for My Upcoming Anti-Trump Blog Feature

This very apt photo is from : Zamirbhimji

So I have to own up and say that I have been hiding from the news and Trump’s daily debacles. I have retreated into my mind, into books or into Netflix to avoid what is happening in the world right now because I feel like IS THIS SHIT FOR REAL?

Sadly, it is. I feel like we are heading for a train wreck that everyone can see but can’t stop. Reading this article that tells us what happens when a narcissist gets into power sent chills down my spine.

But I have been heartened by the activism and energy of the literary and book blogging community, from #WriteYourResistance to Malory Blackman refusing to set foot in the US till the ban is in action and indie publishing houses taking a stance[1]. So I’ve decided to come out of my hiding place and fight the Trump non-sense and maintain my sanity by doing what I do best; READING!

My plan is to read books from the countries that Trump has ‘banned’ and review them on my blog. Book Riot started me off with their list of recommendations I hope to do some research and add to this. But it’s pretty hard to reach these literary cultures sitting from my room in London so please add your recommendations in the comments section below or on your own blog and let me know!

 

 


[1] The publishing house Comma Press has announced it will only translate authors from Trump’s banned list

 

‘To all the misfits who dare to tilt worlds’ – Irenosen Okojie’s Speak Gigantular

It really is true what they say about the universe: you ask and it delivers. Just when I was thinking I needed to find more BAME/ethnic minority (I hate both these terms but am forced to use them) writers from the UK, specifically from London, Irenosen Okojie’s Speak Gigantular landed in my lap.

I don’t know why Amazon categorises this book as ‘erotica’, yes there was like ONE story about a foot fetish, but Speak Gigantular has many more layers. While I can immediately draw parallels to the work of Isabel Allende, Helen Oyeyemi and Angela Carter, it is SO much more. It is a weird and wacky collection of short stories with elements of magic realism, feminism, erotica overlaid with a big chunk of horror. Okojie has managed wildly diverse but well developed characters ranging from vigilante chickens, serial killing women and ghosts that haunt the Victoria line.

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Review: Ishara Deen’s God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems

So much YES!

Although I haven’t stepped into the YA genre for a while I’m glad I got the chance to read and review this gem. I loved so much about this book. I found myself nodding and laughing out loud at so many points in the story. It was like speaking to an old friend who you just lost touch with but you meet after years and nothing has changed, you guys can reminisce about the old days and still complete each other’s sentences.

Ishara Deen is so right to dedicate this books to ‘all the girls that never got told they could, not even in books’.

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Translated Lit in the Shadows

Over the last few weeks I have gone into hibernation, I just want to be warm and sleep for days on end. So I’ve been feeling like I’ve been slacking a bit, and not just in terms of the blog… My reading lists for this month (or year) didn’t get completed because I suddenly got really busy doing other life things and neglected reading. I  also got Netflix so that didn’t help much. It also looks like I wont be finishing my goodreads reading challenge for the year.

On the bright side though…maybe its quality over quantity?! This year, I have read more widely than before and took my passion for literature and its power for representation more seriously (et voila this blog!). I have also recently started a book club with a few like-minded friends scattered around the globe. I’m really excited about it and the possibility of reading more widely and getting  to know everyone’s taste in literature.

The first book of our book club is ‘One Hundred Shadows’, another Tilted Axis publication, a Korean translation written by Hwang Jungeun and translated by Jung Yewon.

OHS is about of Eungyo and Mujae and their growing relationship, the changing landscape of urban cosmopolitan cities and specifically the electronics park that they both work in. Although it is a very short book, it took me a while to read because of the slow and slightly confusing narrative. The book only starts getting interesting halfway through when you realise that the author has merged the urban, technological and modern city with supernatural folklore. It paints a unique picture of the city that is both surrounded by modern technology and also supernatural forces that threaten to lead your mind and body astray.

This book explores both socio-economic struggles of the modern city; such as poverty and loneliness but also philosophical issues through the metaphor of the ‘shadow’. Here, shadows are dangerous malignant forces that can detach themselves for your body. Everybody in in the OHS world is wary of their shadow ‘rising’ away from their body and leading them astray, almost to the point that it strips you of who you really are. Instead of being inanimate products of light, reflection and darkness, shadows are the very essence of you… it makes you think what is my shadow? What is the one thing that if taken away from me would strip me of my life but leave me alive?

As I mentioned this was a slow read for me, I didn’t feel fully drawn in and wanted the characters to be developed a bit more. However, I wonder if that’s because it is a piece of translation and because I don’t speak/read Korean I missed out on a lot of the cultural knowledge required to appreciate this work fully. For me language is more than the written word but a set of cultural and historical codes. Even Yewon, who translated this, said in an interview that she “was almost sad that I couldn’t just have people learn Korean and read this book in the original”[1]. Do you guys read translated works of fiction? How do you feel about it?


[1] http://www.thelondonmagazine.org/interview-yewon-jung/

http://www.tiltedaxispress.com/books/#/one-hundred-shadows/

It’s Complicated: Arvind Adiga’s ‘Between The Assassinations’

Between the Assassinations is a collection of short stories looking at the years between the assassinations of India’s third Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1984) and her son (also Prime Minister) Rajiv Gandhi’s (1991). Adiga explores this time of political uncertainty and increasing modernisation in India through the unique lens of the inhabitants of a small coastal town in South-West India; Kittur. Moving beyond his vaguely Malgudi Day’s style of writing, at the heart of it, this book tells the story of the (still) ignored people of India; the poor, the farmers, the labourers, the invisible, silent mass.

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The Female Gaze , showing Fifty Shades How its Done and Other Mind Blowing Things

I’m so excited to write about this I don’t know where to start…

I went into London Book Reviews on my lunchbreak to get a copy of Island of Lost girls which has been recommended to me by many people but I just haven’t got around to getting it for some reason. Instead I bought Panty, on a whim, and I’m so glad I did!

Panty is originally written in Bengali by Sangeeta Bandhyopadhyay (SB) and has been translated into English by Arunava Sinha. SB is described as “the woman who reintroduced hardcore sexuality into Bengali literature”[1] so I was both intrigued and bit wary of a mills and boonesque horror awaiting me. Instead, I was met with a no-nonsense portrayal of contemporary Indian society, which explores female sexuality as only one of its themes. Among other things Panty deals with issues of nationhood, religion and questions what it means to be a feminist through a complicated relationship between the protagonist and her lover/boyfriend/partner? (we never find out).

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