Stepping outside the ‘brown’ box


By Zainab Altaf

south asiaThe rich hues that paint the cover of independent literary journal Chicago Quarterly Review’s South Asian American Issue are colours typically associated with South Asian cultures: reds, oranges, blues, and greens; falling raindrops symbolising narratives of loss and displacement that are expected of South Asian writers. The real surprise lies inside, within the collection of short stories, poems, and essays edited and curated by Moazzam Sheikh.

The stories stretch across continents: the South Asian homelands represented as much as the migrant’s experience in the Northern Hemisphere. This is an anthology of an emerging wave of South Asian writing, with every author and poet appearing to be intent on pushing back the parameters of literary space conceded to ‘brown’ writers.

In his introduction to the volume, Chicago Quarterly Review’s (CQR) guest editor Sheikh notes that South Asian American writers are generally a ‘fractured bunch’, their ‘competing master narratives’ a stumbling block in achieving a cohesive identity. Differences exist within and outside, with stereotyping placing the South Asian American writer and their art in a convenient little box labelled ‘brown’. Read more

 

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