Many people from the third world made their mark in America in different fields. Yet, how many of them have left a remarkably grasping influence into the very heart of ‘white-British-dominated’ English literature in the United States of America?
The answer has to be searched through the lens. However, the scenario has begun to change as people of colour are stepping up for their talents to be recognised– Sujash Purna being one of those revolutionaries. This Bangladeshi immigrant is making some impact through his writing in American literature.
Sujash Purna is a Bangladeshi-immigrant poet, currently living in Springfield, Missouri, the USA. He is a Graduate Teaching Assistant and English instructor at Missouri State University. He was born in Dhaka; went to the USA on a scholarship for his undergraduate degree in English at Truman State University when he was only 18.
As Sujash is getting the due fame gradually, it looks like his uncertain journey in a strange foreign country with so many barriers couldn’t stop him from achieving his goal. Although the road to finding glory was not easy, he considers all his hardships as lessons.
“I remember the streets of Shantinagar like the back of my hand,” Sujash reminisced as he went on to reflect on his walk through the lane of memories. Just like most new immigrant students, his first few years in the USA were full of challenges such as culture shock, accent issues, and homesickness. And the worst part is that he was always made to feel like some ‘outsider’.
“I struggled with the workaholic culture in America. I had to juggle in between five part-time on-campus jobs and take 18 credit hours a semester. I had to continue without sleep, even for weeks sometimes. On top of that, I struggled with being labelled as the ‘other’ or stereotyped as an Indian student. I have felt the brunt of racism because of my name or the colour of my skin.”
Such struggles were his push for choosing literature over anything else. He wants to make a change in the dead ‘white-British-male-dominated’ canon through participation in writing. There is a visible lack of diversity in popular literature around the world. He wants to generate a different perspective through his story-telling and experimentation of forms in the genre of poetry.
Kirksville is a small and peaceful town in Missouri that is otherwise a strange place. Here, people outside the university campus have an aura of “I have never seen a person of colour before.” In the process, these peaceful people contribute to subtle acts of racism without even aiming to do so.
Sujash wants to introduce such a pattern of behaviour and outlook among the white people that people of colour would not be perceived differently, and the white people would not have any predominant outlook. He wants to establish that those who are not ‘white’ also have the right to be in mainstream English just as much as they have the right to be in any other field of education and career.
Sujash’s upcoming book ‘Epidemic of Nostalgia’ has been accepted by an American international publisher ‘Finishing Line Press’ from Georgetown, Kentucky. The book is already on their website for pre-orders. The book is expected to be out on July 09, 2021. Once it is out, it will be available on Amazon.
‘Epidemic of Nostalgia’ is a book of poems that portrays the immigrant poet’s retrospective. It is filled with nostalgia about the people and places in Dhaka, Bangladesh and small-town, rural America. There are poems about his parents, his love for home in Bangladesh, and his university life experiences in America. Sujash explains how, within these poems, he shares not only his own journey but the journeys of millions of struggling immigrant students.
Besides his soon-to-be-published book, his ingenious poetry appeared in South Carolina Review, Naugatuck River Review, Kansas City Voices, Poetry Salzburg Review, English Journal, Stonecoast Review, Red Earth Review, Emrys Journal, Prairie Winds, Gyroscope Review, and many other journals. He expressed his gratitude and feels honoured as the Guggenheim Fellow and National Poetry Series winner poet Naomi Shihab Nye and American poet laureate of Missouri Karen Craigo praised his poetry in their reviews which are included in the book format.
“I have been inspired by poets like Kaveh Akbar, Ocean Vuong, Agha Shahid Ali, Ada Limon, Dilruba Ahmed, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tarfia Faizullah, Terrance Hayes, Danez Smith, Jericho Brown, and many others. I had the pleasure to meet and work with Bangladeshi-American poet Dilruba Ahmed at a workshop at West Chester University of Pennsylvania Writers’ Conference,” remarks Sujash about his work-life inspiration.
When asked about plans as a writer, he told the author that he is working on three more collections of poetry, each of which deals with race and socioeconomic challenges, climate change, and immigration reforms. He has been experimenting with forms such as ghazal, visual poetry, and self-portraits. America, being a historically racist country, is going through a transition period and Sujash Purna wants to focus on that. He believes that there is a future for the people of colour and hopes to continue to weave his way in English literature and demolish the historically ingrained white supremacy.
The writer is a student pursuing her undergraduate degree in International Business and Marketing at North South University.
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