Bad Brown Girl

i can barely speak in my mother tongues stutter

my accent is bad

i hate jalebi

but i like aloo samosa


i'm a bad brown

girl i didn't join the

SAA or the ISA

i just didn't know

whether i was desi or irani

i said turmeric

before i said haldi

i go to white-people karaoke bars

i sang Nickelback with a tattooed man


i'm a bad brown girl

my family is from nowhere

and everywhere i'm not sure

i understand the meaning of the word


but everyone keeps saying it


i'm a bad brown

girl i love my


i hate my culture

i think my children one day

could be half white i worry

they'll never understand mama's life i worry

they'll understand completely

i'm a bad brown girl

i stopped attending Eid functions

i hear the community talk

do they like me?


do i like them?

i'm a bad brown girl

i rewatch Devdas with subtitles

i listen to qawwali but i haven't read

namaz in ages

goddammit i love everything

with pumpkin in it


i'm a bad brown girl

i worry i don't make enough

"brown girl art,"

but i'm a brown girl making art

isn't that enough?


i'm a bad brown

girl i could not be

your faux nostalgia of

the lost sounds of churiya

the winds whistling through the badghir i am

not sorry to be as i am

what the days made me

how the earth shaped me

neither a perfect sculpture

of the Orient nor the


on the success of assimilation

Bibliographical info

Hana Shafi, "Bad Brown Girl," from It Begins With the Body. Copyright © 2018 by Hana Shafi. Reprinted by permission of Book*hug.

Source: It Begins With the Body (Book*hug, 2018)

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