With next week being UN International Women’s Day (March 8), we will be highlighting the work of Asian women all this month and we start with a relatively new voice on the scene…
By Suman Bhuchar
POET and spoken word artist Jaspreet Kaur has just presented her debut book to the world, ‘Brown Girl Like Me’, and it is described as – ‘The essential guidebook and manifesto for South Asian girls and women’.
Readers can decide for themselves whether this is a tall claim, or something they wish to sign up to, however her efforts to dissect and present her arguments are genuine.
www.asianculturevulture caught up with Kaur and in our Zoom chat discussed representation, feminism, teaching history and generally growing up ‘Brown’ in Britain.
Born and brought up in East London, to Punjabi migrant parents, Kaur suffered from anxiety as a child and found her outlet in poetry. As she grew up, she began to “deny all the beautiful parts of what make me a brown girl” and in a way this book is a reclaiming of that and asserting her identity in a forceful and unapologetic manner.
The term ‘brown’ is used interchangeably to refer to South Asian women from across the Asian continent and the diaspora. Kaur explains that this book is developed from her earlier interest in research.
She tells acv in the video interview: “It started when I was doing my Master’s in gender studies. I was doing a thesis and research paper on a very heavy topic – it was on the preferences for sons – amongst South Asian communities and its impact on population statistics specifically in India and the Punjab where my family is from and about its impact and how it’s even translated in Western society. We are still upholding some of these values within our homes in the UK.”
This initial interest led her to start “thinking about other themes and setting up the chapters and identifying research samples and demographics”. Kaur discusses this ‘son preference’ in the chapter dealing with parenthood and raising a brown feminist. Other chapters focus on topics ranging from mental health, anxiety, education, menstruation, relationships, micro aggressions and each is introduced with a poem.
She completed her undergraduate degree in History at Queen Mary University and her Master’s in Gender Studies at University College, London before becoming a teacher and spending many years teaching in London schools (St Marylebone School for Girls and Ealing Independent school) and currently is a research fellow at Birkbeck University’s Centre for British Political life, which she says, “allows me to have access to libraries and archives in the UK,” to continue to develop her interest in gender politics.
She is married to the entrepreneur Indy Hothi and spends some time discussing how they met and that she is taller than him. Although we discussed if this book speaks across generations to all Asian women of different ages, this is not really examined in depth, and personally I feel it is not addressed.
Perhaps, one of the reasons is that the pioneering generation of Asian women activists and artists have not really been scrutinised or had their work profiled and they just continue to work in a low key-way not necessarily attracting the media attention they merit or deserve.
This is a discussion for another day and in the words of Kaur “roar, sister roar. Keep fighting the good fight”.
A Big Talent Media Production (UK) for http://www.asianculturevulture/com
Producer/Presenter: Suman Bhuchar (Associate Editor – http://www.twitter.com/sumanbhuchar)
Editing: Harry Clegg (http://www.harryclegg.com/filmography)