Jigari Dost

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is a 2017 novel depicting the journeys of several contemporary characters through living as a Muslim in the 21st century. The novel thus far has followed the characters of Isma, Eamonn, and Parvaiz as they navigate the intersections between their Muslim and British identities. In the novel, Parvaiz has been recruited into ISIS by Farooq, an individual who he encounters in his London neighborhood. Farooq allured Parvaiz with his claims of the equity that joining ISIS would provide him, and upon his arrival in Istanbul, Parvaiz appreciated the beauty of the sky-high minarets and general atmosphere of his new environment. However, upon being exposed to the brutality of life as a recruit, he develops a desire to return to his home in England. All the while, his sister Aneeka worries profusely about Parvaiz, while Isma wants no part of her brother’s life. Parvaiz’s section of the novel concludes with his approaching the British consulate in an attempt to secure a pass to England.

On page 137, Parvaiz describes his relationship with Farooq: “Parvaiz sipped the tea — too weak — and looked around the flat, trying to find any further clues to his yaar’s life. The Urdu word came closer than ‘friend’ to explaining how he thought of Farooq. Or even better, jigari dost — a friendship so deep that it was lodged within you, could not be cut out without leaving a profound, perhaps fatal, wound.” By using the phrase “jigari dost,” Parvaiz evokes a feeling of intimacy and connection that is partially incomprehensible to the reader. Presumably, the reader of the novel does not know Urdu, and thus this phrase is not familiar to them. By using a non-English phrase to define Parvaiz’s perception of Farooq, Shamsie is defining Parvaiz’s perception of Farooq as something that can not be readily understood by the reader, as the language itself is not readily understood by the reader. The use of an non-English phrase further signifies Parvaiz’s internal transition to defining himself as more Muslim than British by creating a divide between the reader’s understanding of Parvaiz’s British life and his life in ISIS. This transition, of course, is defined by the radicalized Farooq, and should not be interpreted to indicate that a Muslim identity is synonymous with a terrorist affiliation or that a Muslim identity is incompatible with a British identity. Parvaiz’s perception of Farooq as a friend that “could not be cut out without leaving a profound, perhaps fatal wound” however, enforces that Farooq is the primary factor that is defining Parvaiz’s identity at this point in the novel. This effect is significant because it shows that Farooq is tempting Parvaiz to entirely discard all elements of his identity that do not fit within the expectations of his group. Specifically, we can see that Parvaiz feels pressured by Farooq to discard his British identity. Parvaiz feels, as a result of Farooq’s guidance, that his British identity is incompatible with his Muslim identity, and therefore, it must be discarded.

B3

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

Imagery and Escapism

Some tragedies are difficult to confront. Claudia Rankine’s poem from Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) titled “February 26, 2012 / In Memory of Trayvon Martin” uses imagery to show a desire to escape from the police brutality that affects the black community in the United States. Specifically, Rankine utilizes images of nature, which evoke a sense of peace that juxtaposes the event that the poem was inspired by. Imagery is a type of descriptive language that appeals to the senses and prompts the reader to create a mental picture inspired by the language.

Rankine’s repeated images of nature echo throughout the poem. In the fourth paragraph, mentions of the sky are woven between mentions of struggle and pain. Rankine writes, “On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush.” (89). The image of the pink sky falls in the middle of the sentence, which is concluded by a series of words that connote negative emotions. In this line, I was drawn to the image of the sky as it contrasts strongly with the emotions evoked by “struck, sleepless, sorry, senseless, shush” (89). Then, Rankine uses the image of blossoms to juxtapose violence, slavery, and brutality. Following a list of instances of violence and institutional racism, Rankine writes, “a throat slices through and when we open our mouths to speak, blossoms, o blossoms… The sky is the silence of brothers” (90). Rankine’s brutal image of hanging is juxtaposed here by the image of blossoms, which the reader associates with softness.

The effects provided by Rankine’s imagery are significant, as they offer a glimpse into the speaker’s coping mechanisms for grieving Trayvon Martin. By returning to images of blossoms and the sky, Rankine shows a desire to escape from the realities of police brutality.

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. “February 26, 2012 / In Memory of Trayvon Martin.” Citizen: An American Lyric, Graywolf Press, 2014.

B2

Defining Race and the Role of Human Equality in a Multicultural Society

Image credit: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The changing face of racism makes it an elusive concept to address in modern conversations. While outright racism exists, it is the system of institutional racism that is the most insidious. The photo above depicts Irish protesters. Their protest signs demonstrate their disapproval of the Irish police force and its reluctance to address black victims of violence.

Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race frames racial oppression in the context of society and describes conversational tools to address the topic of race. Published in 2018, the book provides instruction for genuine alliance with people of color. Oluo states that racism is rarely an individual attribute, but rather an institutional force that continues to oppress people of color (27). This idea is useful, as, I believe, it diverges from the average white person’s perception of racism. When a white person hears the word “racist,” images of “unabashed racism,” such as swastikas or the Ku Klux Klan, may come to mind (Oluo, 27). Framing race as a societal problem, however, points the finger at institutional support in terms of allowing racism to flourish. This idea also permits the opportunity to fight these oppressive systems (Oluo, 36).

Multiculturalism, written Ali Rattansi and published in 2011, is a short introduction to conversations surrounding multiculturalism. Rattansi outlines the role that the strive for human equality has played in the origins of multiculturalism. Following World War II, Rattansi explains, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sparked societal changes towards the idea of race (15). These changes are significant as they set the stage for the progressive social movements of the 1960’s and beyond. These historical moments illustrate that policy changes and social changes are key in changing racist systems.

Image credit: United Nations

Both Oluo’s definition of race as a societal, rather than an individual, issue and Rattansi’s explanation of post-WWII reversals of racist policies reinforce racism as an institutional system of oppression. Just as racism is a “systemic machine,” policy changes and social movements can function to address the injustices of this institutional problem (Oluo, 28). Oluo and Rattansi’s ideas therefore synergize to explain the societal changes that must take place to address institutional racism. These chances include the recognition of the existence of racist systems by white people and the enactment of policy changes that establish human equality.

Works Cited

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018.

Rattansi, Ali. Multiculturalism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2011.

B1