Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 21

JKB: Yeah, you know, I think I believe it actually really did come when I was 11 because I’ve been taking care of my parents as long as I can remember, travelling. I think the reason I became a student of literature and why I started writing was because of my parents. The immigrant experience has really inspired me because I have felt it first hand. I’ve felt discrimination first hand. I see how they treat us and I see how I feel like we are different.started writing was because of my parents. The immigrant experience has really inspired me because I have felt it first h and. I’ve felt discrimination first hand. I see how they treat us and I see how I feel like we are different.

Chitra talked in the interview I did “about how we have this great need to transform America and how we are transformed by America. I believe that I had to grow up really early which is probably when I started writing more. But, I never wrote about my culture. I just wrote about how I felt at those times, you know just little teenaged things that you feel. I used to keep a lot of diaries. Then, I remember, I would burn them cause I didn’t like my writing. I burnt them because I felt that the arts, in Indian culture were never really celebrated, and then I totally found out that’s not true.

In India there’s all the arts, movies, books, literature. My people live and breathe poetry, and I didn’t even know it. Like a year ago I didn’t know it. That’s who we are; even the Sikh religious text, that’s all poetry. So for me, I burnt a lot of [my stuff] because I thought that I would get made fun of or siblings were like you’re so weird. You know, they would always call me a hippy. I remember my cousins came over, and they read my diary, and they laughed at it. I was just so secretive of my writing.

And I remember taking Kiara Koenig’s [Creative Writing] class when I read Chitra Divakaruni. I was like whoa, this is about those Hindu myths that I love with my dad. We used to watch these when I was little. We’d watch them so much, and I think for me I was like wow, I really enjoy this because this is about my people in a sense. Even though I’m Sikh….Sikhism is a take off from Hinduism because Guru Nanak our first God was Hindu. So yeah, I think for me [the turning point] was when I took Kiara Koenig’s class and she introduced me to this writer and I was just like wow, there are really Indian writers.


Jassi and I have known each other a while now. We met through a professor at Yuba College who fostered our love of literature and writing, and she has been one of my very favorite people ever since. It is May 31, 2017. Jassi has invited me to her parents’ home for our interview. I take off my shoes as is proper in her home and enter what is a beautiful clean home, quite the opposite of the disarray my home is currently in. I am introduced to her grandmother who is forgetful these days, and whom Jassi watches over when her mother is away. Jassi leads me to her bedroom where we sit on her bed and begin to catch up.

She has been off at Sacramento State University honing her talents, while I have taken a slower path to university due to familial obligation and things that happen. As we begin to get into a discussion about literature, I turn on my phone to record our conversation so that I can get her words right. Jassi smiles and giggles and tells me how, now that we are official, she is a little more nervous. I assure her we are old friends and to just talk to me like she normally would.

Jassi had the opportunity to meet writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and interview her during a past Butte College WordSpring writing conference. I am aware by this point that she is heavily influenced by this experience and Divakaruni’s writing and the exposure to a powerful Indian, female writer.

JGH: So, I know that part of the big influence is Divakaruni, being introduced to that writing and knowing that as an Indian woman you can be a writer.

JKB: Yes! I have all of her books over there.

She gestures to the bookshelf in the corner of her room, then hands me a book by Jhumpa Lahiri and asked me to bring it back with me when I returned to campus.

JGH: I’m trying to remember how old you are… I ask because Dorothy Allison and I just had this conversation about having the experience you need by a young age to be a writer.