Review: If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar

August 14, 2018
If They Come for Us, Fatimah Asghar, InToriLex
Published By: One World on August 7, 2018
Format Read: ARC Edition (104 pages)
Genre: Poetry/ Own Voices/ Social Commentary
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
If They Come for Us
Poet and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated web series "Brown Girls" captures the experience of being a Pakistani Muslim woman in contemporary America, while exploring identity, violence, and healing.

In this powerful and 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. After being orphaned as a young girl, Asghar grapples with coming-of-age as a woman without the guidance of a mother, questions of sexuality and race, and navigating a world that put a target on her back. Asghar's poems at once bear anguish, joy, vulnerability, and compassion, while exploring the many facets of violence: how it persists within us, how it is inherited across generations, and how it manifests in our relationships with friends and family, and in our own understanding of identity. Using experimental forms and a mix of lyrical and brash language, Asghar confronts her own understanding of identity and place and belonging.


Content Warning: Genocide, Rape, Domestic Abuse


Well written, hard hitting, these poems put me through a roller coaster of emotions.  The author explains how she has existed in a world pulled towards conflicting loyalties. Partition was the division of India into India and Pakistan, it caused at least 14 million to forcefully migrate to escape ethnic cleansings and retributive genocides. During this time 75,000 to 100,000 women were abducted and raped. The author explores the effects of Partition as well as how it has shaped her identity.  She is from nations that America has villianized and her oppression is described in a multitude of ways. The topics of poems range from descriptions of  the Partition to exploring her racism, gender norms, family and sexuality. Besides the serious topics some poems focused on funny ways that the author has assimilated.
"land that mispronounces my grief land that skins my other land that laughs when my people die & paints targets on my future children's faces land that steals and says mine."
The social commentary included descriptions of what America stands for and how it's hypocrisy infects our ability to exist. The author had poems in the form of crossword puzzles clues, grids of meaning and upside down paragraphs. The different formatting worked well and helped me to stay engaged. The author struggles to balance viewing her comfort in America as a betrayal to her past. . I emotionally connected with feelings of being pulled by multiple identities but never finding solace in one. I'm still thinking on the intimate ways the author comes to terms with her life and I will be reeling from reading it for a long time.
We know this from our nests-
                                      the bad men wanting to end us. Every Year
we call them something new:
                                      British. Sikhs. Hindus. Indians. Americans. Terrorists.
Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy poetry about identity and belonging
- can deal with reading about genocide and death
- want to reflect on how marginalized communities exist in America


Fatimah Asghar, If They Come for Us, InToriLexFatimah Asghar is a nationally touring poet, screenwriter, educator and performer. Her work has appeared in many journals, including POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, BuzzFeed Reader, The Margins, The Offing, Academy of American Poets and many others. Her work has been featured on new outlets like PBS, NPR, Time, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, and others. In 2011 she created a spoken word poetry group in Bosnia and Herzegovina called REFLEKS while on a Fulbright studying theater in post-genocidal countries. She is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and a Kundiman Fellow. Her chapbook After came out on Yes Yes Books fall 2015. She is the writer and co-creator of Brown Girls, an Emmy-Nominated web series that highlights friendships between women of color. In 2017 she was awarded the Ruth Lily and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and was featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
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