Cover Photo: On the left is the cover of the novel AMERICAN FEVER, a bright blue book depicting a stylized illustration of a woman's face, against a textured pink background. On the right is a headshot of the writer Dur E Aziz Amna. She is wearing a black shirt and has her arms crossed over her chest.
Photograph courtesy of the author, book cover via Arcade

Dur e Aziz Amna Is Adding Something Different to the Canon

Akanksha Singh interviews Dur e Aziz Amna about her novel ‘American Fever,’ the burdens of representation, and performing for the dominant culture.

The Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets

American Fever

Akanksha Singh: How would you classify ? I hesitate to call it an “immigrant novel”—would it be fair to call it a coming-of-age novel where the protagonist happens to be “foreign”?

AS: Would you say that [label] works both ways though?

The Quiet Americanobservational

AS: Neither have I, in all honesty. Which brings me to my next question: This novel and your voice on the whole, is, I think, unapologetically desi. You don’t handhold a foreign reader unfamiliar with certain desi-isms or Urdu words or water down any of it—including some sentence structures I’ve come to recognise as desi. Was this a conscious choice on your part?

AS: Did you find it hard to shop around your manuscript because of this though? Did you ever find yourself self-censoring to be more relatable to a more Global North reader?

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AS: We touched on this in our earlier exchanges, but talk to me about the idea of “performing” for the dominant culture. Often, as BIPOC writers we’re asked to almost prove our “struggles” to get our narratives out. Is this something you were actively avoiding while you wrote?

AS: Around midway through the novel, chapter 10 opens with a self-aware confession of sorts, about how this could become a “foreigner trying to fit in” narrative. How important was it for you to avoid this?

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AS: Speaking of Hira, was it important to you that she was conventionally likable, being a Muslim teenager?

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AS: How did you balance the honest representation of desi Pakistani communities (both in Pakistan and in the US) and Americans themselves? When Hira broaches her fellow Pakistani exchange student’s choice of wearing a scarf, for instance?

AS: Where do you think (or hope) the “immigrant novel”—or, in this case, the anti-immigrant novel—is headed?

Akanksha Singh is a journalist and writer based in Mumbai, where she covers travel, culture, and social justice. She has previously written for the BBC, CNN, HuffPost, and more. Follow her on Twitter @akankshamsingh and read her work at akanksha-singh.com.