Over the last few years, poetry has become an art of resistance. Women of color especially are rising in written and spoken art. Through social media and other online platforms, women of color are bringing a voice to the often unheard marginalized communities they identify with. One of these rising poetic activists is Jasmin Kaur.
Writing is a lifeline for me. It is a means of hearing and being heard. I write to render myself visible in this world, to process my emotions and to spark action through creativity.
Kaur started writing in the twelfth grade. At the time, she says, she was just journaling for herself and documenting reflections but this slowly turned into a professional pursuit when she took creative writing courses.
I think that in our current political climate, poetry can sooth like water and ignite fire within us. The best poetry reminds us of who we are at our roots and recharges our will to pursue a better world.
Today, Jasmin Kaur is known as a renowned poet, who has gained an outstanding following on the social media site, Instagram. She is a writer, illustrator, poet and elementary school teacher. Her work is seen as an act of healing to many reclaiming their identity.
For years, I was nervous to share my work on a public account because I didn’t know how strangers would react to it,” she said.
“When people began resonating with my work and it began to reach places I never could have imagined, it was definitely affirming. It reminded me that my voice matters. That I deserve to be heard.
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Kaur grew up as an avid reader but never saw herself, a Sikh girl, in any of the stories she read. She thus wanted her work to allow other girls, like her, to experience the joy of finding themselves.
I hope that my words act as a mirror for those who seldom see themselves represented in the books they consume.
Her debut book, When You Ask Me Where I’m Going, brings to life her unapologetic voice of feminism and resilience. Kaur explores issues ranging from culture, race, ethnicity to politics, motherhood, trauma and abuse. Her writing reflects the experiences of oppression she has faced growing up as a girl in society. She challenges readers to reflect and think about the world around them through the eyes of a strong Sikh woman.
The title of her book, she told us, is derived from a poem on page 38 of the book. The poem is inspired by a woman she once knew who she described was “bound to nothing, no place and no one.” To her, the poem speaks to the way the book is a “demand for emotional, spiritual and political freedom.” Her book is divided into six sections, which are named dominantly for parts of the human body including skin and heart.
I’m passionate about social justice issues, especially those that are swept under the carpet. I think that we have a long way to go in terms of creating safe, empowering communities for women of color and South Asian women. It’s important for me to open up conversations about difficult topics, such as anti-black racism, misogyny and sexual abuse in South Asian communities, because I know that it just takes one person to encourage others to do the same.
Kaur envisioned this book as an amalgamation of the experiences of Punjabi women. Sikh women and women of color navigate a world that is often inhospitable to their voices, Kaur said. Through her work, Kaur hopes readers know that they are not alone and that their experiences whether good or bad are shared amongst their sisters. She wants her book to create a space for community, resonance and healing, she said.
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When asked who she would personally want her words to reach, Kaur shared her admiration for author Arundhati Roy.
If author Arundhati Roy read my work, I think I could die in peace. For years, I have deeply admired her commitment to activism through storytelling and writing.
Kaur’s debut poetry and prose collection, When You Ask Me Where I’m Going is now available with HarperTeen in North America and will be published in the Indian subcontinent by Penguin Random House India.