cover image If They Come for Us

If They Come for Us

Fatimah Asghar. One World, $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-525-50978-3

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. For Asghar, home is to be found in a people’s collective memory, and throughout she looks at otherness through the lens of generational trauma. The collection’s opening images reflect legacies of destruction and death. In “For Peshawar,” Asghar writes, “My uncle gifts me his earliest memory:/ a parking lot full of corpses.” Her background in the cinematic arts shows in the form of such poems as “How We Left: Film Treatment.” There, while grappling with an identity formed by personal and cultural divisions, the speaker confesses, “I love a man who saved my family by stealing our home./ I want a land that doesn’t want me.” 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: “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.” (June)