Writing Statement


I am a trilingual poet born in Jalalabad, Afghanistan and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Brooklyn. As a poet I use writing to contest the division between the realm of memory and the realm of experience, and try to grasp the lost histories through language. Ancestral memory is my preoccupation in writing – I hope to reach through time and space to tell the stories of great grandparents, grandparents, and parents all displaced and raised in migration, roots held in glass bottles hoping to return. But there is no place to return because we are not just refugees of just place but also of time. The language I speak is Chagatay Turkestani, but the creation of Uzbekistan and Russification under Stalin made the language scarce and exist in pockets in the diaspora and suppressed in the Northeastern region of China. These things come into play in my writing. My great grandparents came to Afghanistan and India as refugees. They were made into refugees again by the Partition of India, and later again by the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia was another home for us but this as well was not permanent. In search of educational opportunities for his children, my father came to the United States where we settled in Brooklyn. In the U.S. we were not considered Afghan refugees because we were coming from Saudi. So we lived twelve years in limbo as illegal immigrants, then legal immigrants, then finally citizens. The anxiety of becoming Americans and the fear that we may have these privileges taken away at any moment is what made my family afraid to even travel back. So memory and storytelling were the only ways we went back. These movements, these languages, and these cities make up my writing and the reason for writing.


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