When Your Voice Tastes Like Home: Immigrant Women Write edited by Prabhjot Parmar and Nila Somaia-Carten (Second Story), 172 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
You know that feeling you get when you're a house guest and by the second or third day you start feeling uncomfortable? Like you just want to go home, but you can't because your flight's not leaving for another week? Now imagine if that feeling of displacement were permanent. In When Your Voice Tastes Like Home, 27 women immigrants from all corners of the globe tell their stories - tales of displacement to the extreme - in short narratives and poems.
In their native lands, many of these writers were educated and successful. Here, their credentials are worthless and their power stripped from them.
There are a few stellar works of creative non-fiction in this collection. Jo Goodwill's beautifully epic From Africa To Canada: A Lesbian Family In Search Of Home tells the story of the author, her lover Liza and their two little girls, who immigrate to Vancouver from their post-apartheid home to find a place where, as Goodwill puts it, "we would not merely be tolerated."
Also a must-read is Mothers, by Sheela Haque, about Sadaf, a 17-year old Muslim girl who gets pregnant by a non-Muslim.
I didn't find the poetry as rich as the stories, but Rice Krispies Soup, by Jin Lee, and Etre/Avoir, by Nina Asher, clearly convey a world where we can feel, if only fleetingly, what an immigrant's alienation tastes like.
What makes the book powerful is that every tale contains an element of hope, something the writers did not feel before coming to this country.