Of Love and Agency: Models of Motherhood in South Asian Diasporic Literature and Poetry

How to Cite

Sharma, K. (2023). Of Love and Agency: Models of Motherhood in South Asian Diasporic Literature and Poetry. The Columbia Journal of Asia, 2(1), 61–75. https://doi.org/10.52214/cja.v2i1.11119


In this essay, I will explore the literature and poetry of the South-Asian diaspora, arguing that an effective balance of tradition and agency for South Asian Canadian women is predicated on the existence of models of mothering that demonstrate choice for daughters, are communal, and create a mobilizable community for both mothers and their children. In a collection of poems by Rupi Kaur, mothering is explored in several forms, many of which succumb to damaging colonial tropes. Most promising of these models, however, are those that showcase a mother’s continued battle for potential freedom and the ways in which she demonstrates possibility for her daughter. This model is further constructed in Anita Badami’s work as mothers begin to socialize and organize in ways that propel those they mother as active agents and build communities. In the highest stage of this model, Farzana Doctor develops a model to engage in communal mothering more widely as it spurs a social movement and allows for the reclamation of individual agency. The women’s imperfect but rousing efforts to provide agency for their daughters as they navigate the challenges of being female members of the diaspora are central to each piece of literature and define the experiences of South Asian-Canadian mothers, daughters, and communities.