Book Reviews

review; when you ask me where i’m going

Title: When You Ask Me Where I’m Going
Author: Jasmin Kaur
Genre: Poetry
Type: Hardcover
Publisher: HarperCollins

so that one day
a hundred years from now
another sister will not have to
dry her tears wondering
where in history
she lost her voice

The six sections of the book explore what it means to be a young woman living in a world that doesn’t always hear her and tell the story of Kiran as she flees a history of trauma and raises her daughter, Sahaara, while living undocumented in North America.

Delving into current cultural conversations including sexual assault, mental health, feminism, and immigration, this narrative of resilience, healing, empowerment, and love will galvanize readers to fight for what is right in their world. 

I was super excited to see another Kaur writing poetry, and the poems she has posted on Instagram have always tugged at my emotions. She talks very frankly about religion and the patriarchy, and being open and communicating, and it comes across in her poetry.

The foundation of the book is the narrative of a young (unwed) immigrant mother leaving a life of trauma for an undocumented life raising her daughter in North America. Indeed, part of the book explores this narrative as a story, evoking emotions of loss, hurt, abandonment and helplessness. It is a very powerful foundation to build on, and the poet does this by exploring a range of issues relating to culture, immigration, feminism, stigma, even religion and mental health.

The book is split into parts of the body, and each part tackles a different way one may deal with the issues present throughout the book. The poet does not censor herself, and does not shy from tackling race, ethnicity, discrimination, and the darker side of life that generally Indian families do not speak about and shove under the rug. Unlike other poets however, despite the frankness of her voice, even the confrontational poems in her book have a layer of empathy that suggests her anger and outrage is largely towards the systems in place that allow these situations to go unpunished, these systems that perpetuate violence and hurt.

There is historical context to the whole book, providing a base of how generational trauma compounds until it bubbles out and over, forcing one to confront the things that have been hidden and pushed away. This is done with nuance and honesty, and while I cannot say I connected with every poem on every page, by and large, I felt seen and heard, and came away from the book with a better understanding of myself, my culture and my history. And since identity and finding oneself and ones’ place in the world is such a big part of the over-arcing theme of the book, I’d say the book did it’s job very well.

I’m Ara, a Southeast Asian writer who someday hopes to have published a novel, and who is currently losing herself in the worlds created by others. I love books and food and television and blogging and I get distracted and sidetracked easily.


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