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If They Come For US by Fatimah Asghar

If They Come For US by Fatimah Asghar

Often in History classes, we study about partition – a political movement that draws an invisible line dividing a country and its people. This act of division is so influential that from the pages of history it has made its way to the world of literature and contemporary poet Fatimah Asghar’s book If They Come For Us is such an example. In her debut collection, the India-Pakistan Partition serves as the source of inspiration for poems which then also talk about gender and sexuality, religion and politics, global oppression and local resistance.

Out of the forty-four poems in this book, seven are titled “Partition”. Each of these seven poems views the concept in seven different ways. The first “Partition” explains in plain words that what it truly means to be divided: “you’re Indian until they draw a border through Punjab”, “you’re a daughter until they / bury your mother. Until you’re not invited to your father’s funeral” (Asghar). Meanwhile, the last “Partition” states the fact that no invisible border or political power can separate the author from her roots and ancestral identity. My favorite poem in this book is the fourth “Partition” that talks about how history is edited while teaching to the current students. To maintain political power, so much is omitted that the poet writes “It was 2000 & we knew nothing of history. / Just the shit we read in class about Gods not ours” (33, Asghar).

If They Come for Us
by Fatimah Asghar

While a huge part of this book is dedicated towards a poetic discussion of the effects of partition, many poems also describe coming-of-age as a Pakistani Muslim. In poems where the speaker plays with white Barbies, rides in a halal Uber, and eats at the Old Country Buffet with her family, we see a sense of selfhood culminate from all the fractures and partitions that comprise one’s identity. Hence, this book educates us about the past through the personal experiences of the poet herself. That is why this book is recommended for those who are fans of the political history of the world.
To conclude, in this collection, the personal is intertwined with the political; as they are two core themes od Asghar’s poetry. Because of this, Asghar’s poems did what many history textbooks could not and remind us of Audre Lorde’s famous quote: “Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence.”

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