The experience of reading Fatimah Asghar’s debut book of poems, If They Come For Us, is one of being gripped by the shoulders and shaken awake; of having your eyelids pinned open and unable to blink. If They Come For Us is a navigation of home and family, religion and sexuality, history and love. The speaker of these poems appears at once old and incredibly new, a dichotomy that is upheld as the narrative jumps from past to present and all over the last century. And yet, even when we’re told some of these memories and experiences are not the the speaker’s, they still are, somehow ... In these poems, Asghar invites us to stare into the wound and—hopefully—learn from it.
...Asghar presents a debut poetry collection showcasing both a fierce and tender new voice. The poems, largely based on the experience of living in America as a Pakistani Muslim, reflect Asghar’s keen perceptions about the search for, and inability to firmly fix upon, one true identity ... As Asghar traces the threads of her experiences, she slowly unfurls the larger fabric of her heritage and, in doing so, honors all who have been pushed aside, divided from country and culture, misrepresented, and misunderstood ... Asghar allows poignant contradictions to rise to the surface, like a lotus reaching through mud and murky water to beautifully bloom.
In this awe-inspiring debut, Asghar...explores the painful, sometimes psychologically debilitating journey of establishing her identity as a queer brown woman within the confines of white America ... The collection’s opening images reflect legacies of destruction and death ... Gendered violence also undergoes scrutiny, with Asghar’s speaker asking, 'what do I do with the boy/ who snuck his way inside/ me on my childhood playground?' Honest, personal, and intimate without being insular or myopic, Asghar’s collection reveals a sense of strength and hope found in identity and cultural history.