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. These movements, these languages, and these cities make up my writing and the reason for writing.



One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature, ed. by Zohra Saed and Sahar Muradi. Fayetteville, AR: The University of Arkansas Press, 2010. $24.95.

This anthology chronicles the recent work of the Afghan diaspora in the United States, which has received newfound attention in the wake of 9/11 and the success of writers like Khaled Hosseni. Encompassing poetry, fiction, essays, and blog selections, the fifty pieces presented here create a portrait of human endurance throughout Afghanistan’s troubled recent history. The common themes of migration, discrimination, and memory are filtered through a range of creative visions, expressed in English and Dari, song and narrative. The editors’ annotations, timelines, and bibliographies help shape a coherent vision of an artistic community. (SL)

The Middle East Journal, Vol. 66, No. 1, Winter 2012.

Publisher’s Weekly:

Langston Hughes: Poems, Photos, and Notebooks from Turkestan

Langston Hughes, edited by Zohra Saed. CUNY/Lost & Found, $8 trade paper (60p) ISBN 978-0-9888945-6-3
In 1932, Langston Hughes visited Leningrad to help make a Soviet film about race in America; from there he asked to visit Central Asia, evading his Soviet minders to “make his own path” through the old towns and new literary circles of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The travels have long been known, as has Hughes’s book about them, A Negro Looks at Soviet Central Asia, published in Moscow in 1935. But Hughes’s journals and the Uzbek poems about his visit have never been published until now. Saed provides an informative foreword explaining literary politics in Soviet Central Asia under Stalin, and a moving afterword about her family’s flight from Uzbekistan. Hughes’s clipped notes on his travels reveal his views of “minority” life in non-Russian Soviet states, and though he was determined to meet writers and find things out for himself, he did not always see past the Communist Party line: “So rapidly are Uzbeks and Russians mixing,” he wrote in Tashkent, “that in 15 years, one probably can’t tell who is who.” The journals also show—with Saed’s help—the region’s complicated language politics. Hughes’s journey itself may be news to non-scholarly readers, while those who know the story can still learn much from Saed’s editorial work. (Aug.)

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