I’ve been enjoying reading more poetry over the summer, and I’ve recently picked up If They Come for Us, a raw and poignant collection by Fatimah Asghar. I was instantly drawn to the rich themes of South-Asian culture, identity, and the undeniable link between past and present in the effects of political turmoil and violence. Asghar employs varied forms in this collection featuring both lyrical free verse as well as more experimental forms. I was especially intrigued by the creative experimentation which I thought worked really well with the themes Asghar taps into. In “Microaggression Bingo,” Asghar contrasts intense and complex notions of Western microaggressions with a simpler bingo card form, many of which ring true in terms of one’s ability to address such statements and actions. In “Script for Child Services: A Floor Plan,” Asghar lays out her poem as a floor plan to portray being an orphan in the foster care system. I don’t think I’ve seen innovative forms like the ones Asghar makes use of. The collection is also a very informative one and builds on other intersectional struggles which share common themes and hardships. I often found myself having to pause to put the collection down and take in the work. It can be a quick read, but I held onto the collection for a couple of weeks to make sure I was able to grant each poem enough time and thought and to connect recurring threads anchoring the work, especially with more haunting and complex pieces.
—Mays Kuhail, Mid-American Review