When You Ask Me Where I Am Going is a powerful narrative about healing and empowerment after trauma, sexual abuse, and immigration. Through the story of Kiran and her daughter, Sahaara, whose voices have been suppressed in their world, author Jasmin Kaur gives us a very relevant and very important story about mental health and gender ideentities.
We have a conversation with her about her inspiration, experiences, and storytelling.
How big a role has writing played in you discovering your identity?
Writing poetry has been a journey inward for me. Writing helps me make sense of my emotions. It allows me to wrap my head around the issues that are affecting our world. I think that through writing, I’ve come alive and found myself in so many ways. As a naturally shy, introverted person, writing and performing poetry has (as cliched as it sounds) allowed me to come into my voice. It has allowed me to take up space and express my opinions without shrinking. I would absolutely not be the person I am today without having found poetry.
Do you remember why and when you started writing?
I began writing poetry in high school. As an avid reader of Rumi, I began writing poetry as a means of journaling and documenting my spiritual reflections. I loved how Rumi’s poems could punch me in the gut with only a handful of stanzas or lines. I wrote only for myself and kept my poems in a journal that I hid in my night table. Over time, my poetry to evolved to encompass many of the issues that I am passionate about, including social justice and activism. I slowly went from keeping my poems to myself to sharing them on an anonymous Tumblr account to posting to a private Instagram to, finally, creating a public account just a few years ago. Each step towards publicly expanding the way I shared my work came with apprehension about how the world would react to me but I’m so glad that I did!
Who are the authors and poets that you look up to, and why?
I’ve admired Arundhati Roy for many years. I feel like Arundhati bridges the gap between storytelling and activism in the most heartfelt manner possible. I am perpetually inspired by the way Arundhati stays true to her convictions as an activist despite the pressure to conform or go silent under government pressures. I can’t think of a better role model for young, South Asian writers.
If there is one message you would like to share with someone reading your book, what would it be?
Sikh women are not a monolith. There are so many layers to our experiences of the world as Punjabi Sikh women and no one story can encapsulate us completely. We deserve to be understood with just as much complexity as others are offered.
When You Ask Me Where I Am Going will be landing on your bookshelves later this month!
Featured Image Credits: Nikki Shahi