For an intersectional story, for a well done blend of poetry and prose, for a fictional-but-way-too-real look at how sexual assault affects not only the person attacked but so many others around them
Kiran is a young Punjabi Sikh woman who becomes pregnant after being sexually assaulted by her fiancé’s brother. When her fiancé and family don’t believe her, she flees her home in India to Canada, where she plans to raise the child as a single mother. For Kiran, living undocumented means constant anxiety over finances, work, safety, and whether she’ll be deported back to the dangers that await her in Punjab. Eighteen years later, Kiran’s daughter, Sahaara, is desperate to help her mother, who has been arrested and is facing deportation. In the aftermath, Kiran reveals the truth about Sahaara’s conception. Horrified, Sahaara encourages Kiran to speak out against the man who raped her—who’s now a popular political figure in Punjab. Sahaara must find the best way to support her mother while also dealing with the revelation about her parents.
I didn’t expect this to begin with Kiran as a kiddo, but that’s just what happened. What we get is a quite robust look at a life, from young Kiran to young adult Kiran to older Kiran as a mother. It switches to her daughter, Sahaara, as she grows up as well. I particularly loved the way Sahaara’s sections grew in stylistic complexity as she grew in age. In her early poetry entries, it’s simple rhyming couplets. It grows more complex, utilized different techniques and the abstract, and eventually turns to lengthier prose entries as well.
The poetry and prose work so well together, catching what the other can’t say. For me, the format was just edging out the story on my favorite element. But the story was by no means lacking: the style was just that good.
Since it follows both Kiran and Sahaara from when they are young to their older years, a lot can be learned about each. The similarities between them parallel so well as the story continues. Sahaara makes a point after she learns the truth of her conception where she reflects on the way her mother’s past actions make so much more sense now, knowing what she has been carrying all along. And in that, Sahaara also sees how she has changed just from hearing about what happened.
This is an emotional story. I feel like it gets so close to the core of being human, because of how much all of the characters feel. The obvious ones related to Kiran’s rape: fear, shame, anger, pain. The simple ones of a child: frustration, excitement, disappointment, hope. But what moved me the most were the deep ones, the ones that are so hard to understand because they are layered, and dependent on others. That’s what drew everything together tightly, like a hug when everything else feels too big.
It’s… it’s pretty good, y’all. Give it a read.