Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 23

r] said

want stop, her words are so elegant. Also, I like what’s between her words. This is weird, but I thought about how it feels to be an Indian woman, to be soft spoken. I saw some of the elegance in her words which were so beautiful to me, and it reminded me of how women in my culture have to force their words into their bellies. That’s how I’ve always felt. And, the way she writes is just that, she’s able to do it in such a beautiful way. If you were to give an Indian woman a chance to speak, that’s what she’ll create is that kind of book, and I think for me that’s what I want to do with my writing. Chitra really helped me see that, be that person. When I got to meet her I just didn’t know what to say to her.

JGH: She’s so strong.

JKB: Yeah, I think the best advice she gave me was when I told her that I was experiencing a new start at taking creative writing classes at Sac State, and I was so nervous to take those classes, because I knew that I was doing something different. ‘Cause I never wrote about my culture until that semester. I started writing all about the culture and, last year, 2016, I started taking creative writing classes with Joshua McKinney, great writer, too, and right now we’re working on a book together. And I took his class, and I didn’t expect him to be so supportive of me. I think after my first workshop he told the class, “this is why we need bilingual writers, because what Jasmeen is doing is so brave, and it’s a shame that they feel like they need to lose their voice when they come into Western society.” That was really flattering.

And then, something really strange started happening. I started taking more classes with him, but what I noticed is, my peers who were bilingual started adding their culture, their language into it. I would always provide translations for the Punjabi. It would always be my piece, then I would have a glossary, basically, and I think that they had never heard Punjabi. For me, I kind of took a lot of risks. I would get criticism; there was [always someone saying] “Oh, we don’t understand what you’re writing; we don’t get it.” And what Chitra told me was, “People used to tell me that, and I just kept pushing.”

JGH: It just means you have to try harder.

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