The recent wave of anti-Asian violence this year reminds us all again of our vulnerability and our long, fraught, and relatively under-explored history in this country. Just like their European counterparts, South Asian immigrant laborers, students, merchants, religious leaders, and professionals came to American shores filled with hopes for a better life, only to be faced with hostile government policies and anti-immigrant sentiment rooted in racism and xenophobia. And since the events of September 11, 2001, there has been more visible violence against South Asian immigrants in the U.S—yet many cases go unreported because of fears of deportation.
Divya Victor's new book, Curb, considers post 9/11 domestic terrorism against South Asians across America. Like her previous book, Kith, this is also a hybrid collection of verse and prose, memoir and history, reflections and imaginings, cultural criticism and what writer Cathy Park Hong has called "minor feelings."
The opening piece is a brief, heartbreaking statement made by Victor's mother during a casual walk:
yes; I am // afraid all // the time; all // the places are all // the same to me; all // of us are the same to all // of them; this is all // that matters; all // of us don't matter at all.
In her endnotes Victor says that confession, from a mother fearful of everything and everyone in a foreign country helped her cross an emotional threshold to begin the book. Like blood blooming from that open wound, Victor's words spill onto page after page with an unstanchable urgency. In addition to exploring her own modes of survival, belonging, and displacement, she meditates on the deaths of five South Asian men—Balbir Singh Sodhi; Navroze Mody; Divyendu Sinha; Sunando Sen; Srinivas Kuchibhotla—killed by white supremacists and nationalists.