Feroza Jussawalla. Chiffon Saris.
FEROZA JUSSAWALLA'S recent collection of poems, Chiffon Saris, vivifies the rich and expansive sensations of disenfranchised diasporic peoples that create roots and homes anew in places where disparate cultures push against one another. Jussawalla powerfully juxtaposes and fuses cultural icons, languages, and bodies from the U.S. / Mexico border, South Asia, and London in order to texture variously the shared experiences of brown peoples worldwide. She affirms such cross-pollinations but also roots such cultural syntheses within histories of oppression. In one poem, we encounter a dazzling juxtaposition of Mexican Catholic velorios with icons of the Buddha and Ganesh, and in another the poet-narrator announces playfully, "Everyday, with every spoonful of chile / I get more Chicana and less curry. / Chutneyfied." We are reminded, however, of the long histories of colonization of Native, South Asian, and Latinos that continue--as seen in the poem "Indian"--to uproot, "mangle," and translate peoples. Jussawalla also powerfully reminds us of the different experiences of being uprooted and "translated" as a woman. In the poem "Garas," for example, the pressures to assimilate are such that 500-year-old saris (a symbol of a deep cultural matrilineage) must be locked away "in a safety deposit box." In another poem, "Chiffon Saris in the Dessert," the shedding of the sari allows the poet-narrator to blend in with the desert, "only to be called / Rosa or Rosita--/ generic for the dark haired," and thus to continue being a target of mainstream bigotry and racism. For Jussawalla, oppressive forces appear in surprising places. In yet another selection, "Terror," the poetnarrator declares: "Terrorists / silence us / here, in our adopted homelands.... We remain / disenfranchised / even more / by the craziness / of billionaire untouchables / who have struck / an airplane fuselage in our mouths."
Jussawalla deftly employs a variety of poetic forms and beautifully interlaces Spanish and Gujarati/Hindi tones and rhythms to create a borderland space that affirms Native Americans, Latinos, and South Asians who build community, heal, and create anew in a world filled with the violence of racism and sexism; less effectively, Jussawalla includes poems that make a rather strong and unnecessary nod to a healing through Christianity. Ultimately, with Chiffon Saris, Feroza Jussawalla introduces a vital new voice to southwestern borderland and South Asian diaspora letters--and world literature generally.
Frederick Luis Aldama
University of Colorado, Boulter
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|Author:||Aldama, Frederick Luis|
|Publication:||World Literature Today|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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