The creator of Chicago-based web series Brown Girls explores her identity as a Pakistani-American Muslim female in a powerful debut poetry collection, If They Come For Us.
Photo: Cassidy Kristiansen
History, politics, sexual identity, loneliness, love and loss... Fatimah Asghar doesn’t miss a beat in her breathtaking and bold debut collection of poetry, If They Come for Us, debuting Aug. 7 ($16, One World). A 28-year-old touring poet, performer, educator and writer—who calls the Windy City her “home base” despite having recently decamped to L.A.—Asghar is also the award-winning writer and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls, now in development by HBO.
In 2017 she was the recipient of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Poetry magazine, The Rumpus, Huffington Post and more.
If They Come for Us is the latest milestone in Asghar’s blossoming career. “Fati” to close friends and family, she explores the time-bending legacy of a young Pakistani Muslim woman confronting her personal struggles in contemporary America. The political and the personal are fearlessly intertwined throughout, capturing a budding young woman seeking acceptance while in turn trying to accept herself with powerful verses like “you’re muslim until it’s too dangerous. you’re safe until you’re alone. you’re american until the towers fall. until there’s a border on your back” (from “Partition”).
If They Come For Us is the debut poetry collection from Fatimah Asghar (Art: Shyama Golden; photo courtesy Random House)
Asghar says she approaches her art “with simplicity to convey complicated nuanced ideas.” Orphaned as a young girl, she struggled as a child without the guidance of a parent, and hopes that those who truly “need” this book will read it. “I was very lonely growing up,” she explains. “I wanted to understand things about history and not feel so alone, to carve out a space where a younger version of myself didn’t feel so isolated. I believe there is an audience in need of a book like this.”
Most of all, Asghar maintains she wants to leave her readers with a feeling that, “yes, we live in complicated times, intergenerational trauma and division, but we can build an active society and be there for each other.”