Book Review – If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publication Date: June 26th, 2018
Publisher: One World

Composed of raw emotion, memory and urgency, If They Come For Us examines the injustice of war and division. Bloodshed is something that shakes and dismantles the roots of generations, leaving scars on even those who only recall it faintly, or don’t recall it at all. The aftermath doesn’t fade easily – what is lost and the price of what is gained must never be forgotten.

Asghar speaks rich lyrics also on culture, sexuality, and the delicate, haphazard art of growing up. They are unabashed, honest and hint at deeper intricacies. Her words also take a strong stance against all that leads to partition and war – namely misunderstanding or fearing another because their culture is different, without trying to understand them. Prejudice only leads to further prejudice, never to any sense of harmony.

Some were not to my personal taste, as is with any compilation, but I enjoy the collection’s earnest voice as a whole, especially with the earlier poems and the ones with feminist touches. Particular resonant poems for me were “For Peshawar”, “When the Orders Came”, “Boy”, and the disarming “WWE”.

If They Come For Us is sometimes painful and sometimes passionate, even the poems that weren’t my preference are never watered-down or weak in their meaning or choice of words. (The cover artwork is also beautiful, to boot.) I recommend.

Quotes

  • “Aren’t I a miracle? A seed that survived the slaughter & slaughters to come. I think I believe in freedom I just don’t know where it is. I think I believe in home, I just don’t know where to look.”
  • “From the moment our babies are born are we meant to lower them into the ground? To dress them in white? They send flowers before guns, thorns plucked from stem. Every year I manage to live on this earth I collect more questions than answers.”
  • “All the people I could be are dangerous. The blood clotting, oil in my veins.”
  • “Even nature is fractured, partitioned. I want to believe in rebirth, that what comes from death is life, but I have blood from someone’s father’s father on my hands & no memory of who died for me to be here.”

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Note that this was an uncorrected copy and there may be minor changes present in the final print.]

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