This summer, her debut poetry collection cemented her status as one of the city's greatest present-day poets. A stunning work of art that tackles place, race, sexuality and violence. These poems-both personal and historical, both celebratory and aggrieved-are unquestionably powerful in a way that would doubtless make both Gwendolyn Brooks and Harriet Monroe proud.
In this awe-inspiring debut, Asghar, writer of the Emmy-nominated web series "Brown Girls," explores the painful, sometimes psychologically debilitating journey of establishing her identity as a queer brown woman within the confines of white America...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: "Our names this country's wood/ for the fire my people my people/ the long years we've survived the long/ years yet to come."
I have never read a book that made me want to eat, write, revise and love my body as much as IF THEY COME FOR US by Fatimah Asghar. This book gutted, cradled, and inspired me. Asghar's work isn't simply some of the most innovative work I've read; page after page, the book weaves productive ambiguity, textured explorations of the body and lyrical precision into a work that is somehow just as much a mammoth book of short stories, an experimental novel, and a soulful memoir. I'm not sure this nation is deserving of such a marvelous sensual and sensory book, but I know we needed this. We so needed this.
The stark poems in Fatimah Asghar's collection If They Come For Us examine conflicts around the globe, from the repressive violence of the Taliban to the echoes of the Partition of India across the decades and the restrictive immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration. Asghar's precise use of language and talent with imagery creates an unnerving contrast between the beauty of the form and the horrors these poems depict.
These poems are simultaneously elegant and playful, balancing the two elements with such formal innovation. The poet invents new forms and updates classic ones.
Orphaned as a child and marginalized in America, Asghar captures the plight of alienation on a personal and political scale...With If They Come For Us Asghar joins a rich history of Partition literature. Poets in the diaspora have mined the relationship between the violent remapping of the subcontinent with the instability of South Asian identity, language, and citizenship in their work... a firm declaration of loyalty and love to Asghar's community. "my country is made / in my people's image / if they come for you they / come for me too," she writes. It is a paean to her family-blood and not-who she turns to steadily, out of the past and into a shared future.
In forms both traditional...and unorthodox...Asghar interrogates divisions along lines of nationality, age, and gender, illuminating the forces by which identity is fixed or flexible. Most vivid and revelatory are pieces such as 'Boy,' whose perspicacious turns and irreverent idiom conjure the rich, jagged textures of a childhood shadowed by loss.
In her debut poetry collection, Asghar explores the experience of being a Pakistani Muslim woman in America today. These poems are powerful and personal.
If They Come For Us is a beautiful book of poems that, as powerfully and deeply as any book I've read in a good while, wonders about, explores and laments our many inheritances of violence, which are also inheritances of sorrow, and the ways those inheritances reside in our bodies and imaginations. The ways those inheritances, in fact, structure our bodies and imaginations. And yet, the wonder of this book is the way that throughout the anguish and sorrow and rage, despite it, there is tenderness. There is sweetness. There is care. This book reminds us: these, too, are our inheritances. These, too, are our heirlooms. These, too, we must pass along.
Fatimah Asghar writes my heart
What an outstanding collection of poetry . . . [I] will be thinking about these poems for a long time to come
Fatimah Asghar's debut collection brought me to tears many times over. It is urgent, compelling and filled with fragments of history that have changed the face of the world. Its exploration of queerness, grief, Muslim identity, partition and being a woman of colour in a white supremacist world make this the most essential collection of poems you'll read this year
With breathtaking intelligence and care, Fatimah Asghar writes enduring poems that from varied angles investigate the histories and resonances of the Partition .... Part of the strength and vulnerability of this work is rooted in what I'm thinking of as a poetics of or. Asghar does not fix or flatten her subjects, but, rather, engages each poem as at least one of several imaginative routes through which she/we might engage history and possibility. In this way, these poems bend time, encircle kin, invent new forms of saying. They laugh, lose, lament, challenging language even as they are led by it... But my chest bursts most with Asghar's ability to render the fullness of life and human effort with the tiniest of details: mehndi on fingers, blisters on the back of a heel, laughter as a way of letting someone know you're still there. I leave these poems so deeply moved by her keen observations of the ephemeral. Even as she mourns the world, there is such fierce, resilient awe everywhere here. Such poems embolden me into love and dreaming and action.