Q: What was the impetus for this book?
The impetus of the book was to try to document working-class immigrant voices. I am the daughter of immigrants who then also immigrated. In my experience, working-class immigrants, on the whole, don’t have much time for putting their lives on paper, and so their experiences often go unrepresented. I wanted to use my work as a way to make their voices heard.
While I was writing the poems in this book, there was so much talk of identity—specifically, hyphens that try to delineate the post-colonial experience. But I have found that the post-colonial experience and the immigrant experience cannot be easily hyphenated; it is not as simple as hitching one ethnic/cultural identity to another to say, “These two ethnicities are me.” My opinion is that the immigrant heart is not hyphenated; but, rather, a mosaic made from large and small oddly-shaped pieces, and that the size of each piece does not correspond to its importance in an immigrant’s life. I wanted my poems to capture the importance of the small—the gestures that go unnoticed—e.g. how many types of currency one purse holds in a trip “home;” how cinnamon can conjure a woman who began her life in one country and ended it another; how language is not fixed, but it can stagnate when it is divorced from its country of origin, etc.
Read the rest at The Writer in the World.