Zahir Janmohamed: Writer of Color

Essay in Guernica magazine on being asked to speak for a whole community and region rather than yourself.

I wanted to say I am not a political writer. My life has never been political, but sometimes, like that one time when I was dressed in my swim trunks and flip flops and flew to Miami with my friends and a TSA agent pulled me aside and questioned me about the nature of “my business in the U.S.,” well, then the story of my life is made “political.” I wanted to tell them that if being a writer is to endure loneliness then being a writer of color in America is to suffer banishment: the only boat off this island often being if I write a certain kind of story in a certain kind of way for a certain kind of audience, which is to say—and we do not say these words enough—for a white audience. But I could not get myself to say these things and instead I just stared at my brown fingers hovering above the black keys on my laptop, unable to type.

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writing