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Six Muslim women. One poetry collection exploring family, identity, and homeland.

Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air brings fresh voices of poignancy and a much-needed representation in modern poetry. From the scents of a bustling street market in India to the warmth of stories rooted in Venezuela to snippets of college days shared at MIT, the poetry in this book features an ache for grounds no longer walked upon. With a range of distinct styles and voices, the poets’ nuanced self-expression amounts to a piece that is both a prayer and a rebellion. Their words, introspective and reminiscing, witty and thoughtful, are an ode to that which makes them who they are and where they come from. Simultaneously, their voices are a rejection of dangerous stigmas, cultural taboos, and oppressive systems. In both verse and image, Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air is a bold and unfiltered collection recounting moments, tears, and dreams that have been generations in the making. The poems in this collection are accompanied by full-color illustrations and photographs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781957372006
Publisher: Beltway Editions
Publication date: 06/15/2022
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

Poet Afeefah Khazi-Syed was born and raised in the DFW metroplex but has always called two places home: the suburbs of Texas and her grandparents’ homes in Southern India. After studying biological engineering with a minor in urban studies at MIT, Afeefah finds herself on a new journey as a first-year medical student at UT Southwestern. She attributes her love for writing and storytelling to her grandparents’ bedtime stories and the many writing mentors she has found throughout her life, from high school English teachers to other immigrant writers. Afeefah views poetry as a deeply personal exchange of experiences and stories.

Aleena Shabbir was born in Queens, New York and has lived in New York ever since. As a Pakistani-US-American, she cherishes connecting with a multitude of cultures, in addition to her own roots. Many years after the minor poetry lessons she had taken in elementary school, Aleena found a community with these fellow poets who have taught her how to express herself creatively and comfortably; she is forever grateful for them and their care. Having studied data science/operations research and different fields of applied mathematics, Aleena hopes to one day work in policy development with a quantitative background. Aleena usually enjoys reading, anything to do with nature, traveling, and pursuing adrenaline-inducing experiences.

Ayse Angela Guvenilir was born in Austin into a family with a Turkish father, a Venezuelan mother, and three older brothers. Growing up in Texas, France, and various parts of upstate New York, Ayse has always used reading and writing for connection, reflection, and relaxation as she moved from place to place. She sees poetry in particular as a form of writing that can surpass the bounds of what words are expected to be, in turn connecting her with others. Ayse got her bachelor’s degree in biological engineering with a minor in creative writing from MIT and is currently a master’s student in the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab. Through her work, Ayse aims to empathize, educate, and inspire, the way that the works of others have always done for her.

Maisha Munawwara Prome was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and has moved back and forth between Bangladesh and the United States throughout her life. Maisha used to write poetry as a child growing up in New York City, but rediscovered it in college while taking classes for her writing minor. Aside from poetry, Maisha enjoys all things creative, from baking to crocheting to writing fiction. She has won awards for her short stories and hopes to continue writing alongside working in research and education. Maisha graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in biological sciences at Yale University.

Mariam Eman Dogar was born in Singapore and has lived in Dubai and Massachusetts. Moving every few years, Mariam describes the closest thing to “home” as the intangible bridge she and her siblings occupy between the very different countries, cultures, and families of her US-American mother and Pakistani father. Mariam has loved writing since she was in elementary school, creating fictional worlds and characters in the back of her notebooks. However, she started writing poetry during her time as a biology major and urban planning minor at MIT. Poetry is now deeply connected to self-care and spirituality for Mariam while she is training to be a physician at Harvard Medical School.

Marwa Abdulhai was born in Chennai, India and has called many places home across the US and in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. She completed her bachelors and master’s studies in computer science at MIT, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in robotics and artificial intelligence at University of California, Berkeley. She is drawn to poetry for its oral tradition, and grew up hearing her Dada Saab recite the works of Muhammad Iqbal and Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in their home in South India. Performing, writing, and listening to poetry allows her to connect with God and understand existence. It is her form of dawah to herself and the world.

Table of Contents

A Letter to the Reader 13

On Mothers

Parachute Afeefah Khazi-Syed 19

A sampling of my favorite lullaby Ayse Guvenilir 20

I swear you were here Mariam Dogar 22

Tranquility Marwa Abdulhai 26

Our Story Aleena Shabbir 27

Why I Don't Celebrate Father's Day Maisha M. Prome 28

On Beginnings

Since the Day I Arrived Maisha M. Prome 31

Search Aleena Shabbir 33

Carving Mariam Dogar 35

The Prequel Afeefah Khazi-Syed 36

On Summer

2009 Aleena Shabbir 39

Side effects of summer may include Mariam Dogar 41

Do You Wanna Go To Target? Maisha M. Prome 43

When i think sunshine Ayse Guvenilir 45

On Loving

Morning Echoes Afeefah Khazi-Syed 49

I don't know how to tell you i don't love you Mariam Dogar 50

When in Dialogue Marwa Abdulhai 52

A Mosaic Maisha M. Prome 55

"Aleena" isn't what I go by Aleena Shabbir 56

On the Unspoken

. Mariam Dogar 59

Hold Back Ayse Guvenilir 61

I ask for Justice Marwa Abdulhai 62

My Two Characters Afeefah Khazi-Syed 65

Welcome Home Maisha M. Prome 66

On Migration

A citizenship Maiwa Abdulhai 73

The middle between us Ayse Guvenilir 74

A Statement For The Confused Afeefah Khazi-Syed 77

22 Years Maisha M. Prome 79

On Home

The sun we haven't felt in years Mariam Dogar 83

A house isn't a home, but it used to be Ayse Guvenilir 86

Alive Maisha M. Prome 87

Love Will Keep Us Safe Aleena Shabbir 88

Found Afeefah Khazi-Syed 89

On Home Again

Dear My Favorite Memories Ayse Guvenilir 93

March, 2020 Maisha M. Prome 95

The final destination Marwa Abdulhai 97

The Landing Aleena Shabbir 98

Dear Kashmir Afeefah Khazi-Syed 99

On Faith

Sixth Grade Afeefah Khazi-Syed 103

Empty Ayse Guvenilir 105

Fleeting Faith Aleena Shabbir 106

Submission Marwa Abdulhai 108

Dadi Mariam Dogar 110

On Tongues

Rice Maisha M. Prome 115

Zubaan Marwa Abdulhai 116

Dots Aleena Shabbir 117

Comb through from root to end Ayse Guvenilir 118

On Forgetting

Our kismaat Marwa Abdulhai 121

Something, Anything Maisha M. Prome 122

I remember Ayse Guvenilir 123

Oud Mariam Dogar 126

The Ending Does Not Exist Afeefah Khazi-Syed 129

On Women 133

An Ode to the Things On My Face Afeefah Khazi-Syed 133

Stages of woman hood Marwa Abdulhai 135

Prayers You Whispered Maisha M. Prome 138

In the Market for Mentors Mariam Dogar 139

La regal Ayse Guvenilir 142

On Hiatus

It's not us Mariam Dogar 145

If Mutations Were Expected Why Were We Caught Off Guard? Afeefah Khazi-Syed 146

January, 2021 Maisha M. Prome 149

Submersion Akena Shabbir 150

444 (no response) Ayse Guvenilir 151

On Being Real

How Are You Doing? Afeefah Khazi-Syed 155

No Lawyer Necessary Akena Shabbir 156

Off-key Ayse Guvenilir 157

Observation Marwa Abdulhai 159

Tangerine Mariam Dogar 161

On the Ground Beneath Me

Live Thoughts As I'm Skydiving Aleena Shabbir 165

Rx for Sleep Paralysis Mariam Dogar 166

In remembrance of the One Marwa Abdulhai 167

My Lunch Box: The Exotic Bazaar Afeefah Khazi-Syed 169

A Thousand Places Maisha M. Prome 170

Enough Ayse Guvenilir 171

Notes 174

Acknowledgments 183

About the Poets 187

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