5 Questions for Jasmin Kaur

Jasmin Kaur is a writer, illustrator, and poet living on unceded Sto:lo territory. Her writing, which explores themes of feminism, womanhood, social justice, and love, acts as a means of healing and reclaiming identity. As a spoken word artist and creative writing facilitator, she has toured across North America, the UK, and Australia to connect with youth through the power of artistic expression.

Named a “rising star” by Vogue Magazine, and a “Writer to Watch” by CBC Books, her work has been celebrated at the American Music Awards by musical icon Jennifer Lopez and shared by celebrities like Tessa Mae Thompson and Reese Witherspoon. She has been featured by Harper’s Bazaar India, Huffington PostThe Indy 100Elle India, Popsugar and other publications.

Jasmin completed her Bachelor of Arts in English with a focus on Creative Writing at the University of the Fraser Valley. She went on to become a public school teacher and is now completing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.

Her debut poetry and prose collection, When You Ask Me Where I’m Going (2019), is available with HarperTeen in North America and with Penguin Random House in the Indian Subcontinent. Her sophomore novel, If I Tell You The Truth releases with HarperTeen in Winter 2021. She is represented by Katherine Latshaw at Folio Literary Management.

You can find Jasmin on Instagram at @jusmun.

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Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, If I Tell You the Truth? What made you want to tell this story?

Jasmin Kaur: I grew up in warm, empowering community spaces with Punjabi girls and women. In writing If I Tell You The Truth, I wanted to tell a complicated story about Punjabi women that felt true to the diasporic Punjabi women I grew up with instead of exotifying and tokenizing. In building the political narrative of the novel, I drew on countless experiences from my teenage and young adult years when my friends and I tried to speak our truths about taboo topics only to be silenced. Our truths inconvenienced powerful men, so we were told to keep them to ourselves. We all deserve space to be loud, unfiltered, and honest, especially when this world tells us we can’t. That’s why I knew I needed to write this story of a Punjabi mother and daughter speaking truth to power.

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V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?

JK: I hope they are reminded that South Asian girls and girls of color deserve to take up space in storytelling. I grew up an avid reader but absolutely never encountered a girl who looked like me in any of the books I read. Because of this lack of representation, I didn’t actually know, as a kid, that Punjabi or Sikh people could be characters in books. I’m so excited for kids of this generation who will always know a world that celebrates their stories.

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V: What was the hardest scene of If I Tell You the Truth to write?

JK: The climax. It’s an ultra-intense, shocking scene and I was so nervous about whether I could do it justice. Re-reading it, I still gasp and hold my breath at moments in this chapter, so I think I did all right.

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V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?

JK: Despite what your Imposter Syndrome tells you, you are a writer! No author is born perfect. Like most other writers, you’ll be honing your craft for the rest of your life. That dedication to cultivating your skill is what makes you a writer. Celebrate your work now. Celebrate how it will evolve. And give yourself a break.

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V: What are your writing must-haves?

JK: I need a clean desk, a bottle of water, and snacks to reward myself between chapters (or pages?). An airy room with a nice view is a bonus. My bedroom desk is my ideal workspace because my bookshelf is right beside it. When I lose focus or momentum, I remind myself of why I’m writing by pulling a book off the shelf that I admire. Beautiful things happen when writers dedicate themselves to their craft and the best reminder of this is a book held in my hands.

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Head to our Instagram page (@voyageya) to hear Jasmin read the first page of If I Tell You the TruthFind Jasmin’s video under the IGTV tab.

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