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US launch of Shailja Patel's 'Migritude'

Internationally acclaimed Kenyan poet, playwright and activist Shailja Patel has launched 'Migritude' in the US. 'Part memoir, part political history, part performance tour-de-force', the project 'weaves together family history, reportage, and monologues of violence, colonisation, and love, to create an achingly beautiful portrait of lives and migrant journeys undertaken in the boot print of Empire.’

Migritude is the US debut of internationally acclaimed Kenyan poet, playwright and activist Shailja Patel. Part memoir, part political history, part performance tour-de-force, Migritude weaves together family history, reportage, and monologues of violence, colonisation, and love, to create an achingly beautiful portrait of lives and migrant journeys undertaken in the boot print of Empire.

Shailja Patel was born and raised in Kenya, has lived in London and San Francisco, and now divides her time between Nairobi and Berkeley. Trained as a political economist, accountant and yoga teacher, she honed her poetic skills in performances that have received standing ovations on three continents. She has been described by the Gulf Times as ‘the poetic equivalent of Arundhati Roy’ and by CNN as ‘the face of globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange’.

Patel has appeared on the BBC World Service, NPR and Al-Jazeera. Her work has been translated into twelve languages. She is a recipient of a Sundance Theatre Fellowship, an African Guest Writer Fellowship from the Nordic Africa Institute, the Fanny-Ann Eddy Poetry Award from IRN-Africa, the Voices of Our Nations Poetry Award, a Lambda Slam Championship, and the Outwrite Poetry Prize. She is a founding member of Kenyans for Peace, Truth and Justice, which works towards a just and equitable democracy in Kenya.


‘Illuminates with artistry and eloquence the shameful secrets of empire's history.’
– Howard Zinn, A People’s History Of The United States

‘A vibrant, gendered, wordsmith's voice, speaking Africa, Asia, the metropole, history, the present – the world. Shailja Patel is that rare thing – an activist poet in prose and verse.’
– Professor Gayatri Spivak, Columbia University, Can The Subaltern Speak?

‘A work of unwavering moral conscience, a battle cry for justice, expressed through a poetic talent that deserves a global audience.’
– Dennis Brutus

‘Shailja Patel's voice rings as stunning, expansive, and true as her journeys across three continents. Migritude is in constant motion between history and biography, defiance and empathy, ambition and fortitude, pain and joy—a powerful book of our global now that lingers with you long afterward.’
– Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of The Hip-Hop Generation

‘Migritude is a doorway, a book that lets us feel and begin to understand the consequences of colonial history and the legacy of domination.’
– Susan Griffin, Wrestling With The Angels Of Democracy

‘Shailja's legendary performances are captured in these pages, which convey the tastes of oppression, exile and resistances – her 'grit on the tongue' – in a diary so impassioned it made me cry.’
– Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

‘Migritude is poetry as documentary. It is non-fiction as testimony. It is authorship as survival. Of course Migritude defies categorization - the best art always does.’
– Raj Patel, The Value Of Nothing

‘Her singular and lyrical voice captures truths about migrants and empire: truths of injustice and pain, perseverance and will, irony and hope. Master storyteller and artist, Shailja conjures women and men who are unforgettable. Migritude is, simply put, brilliant.’
– Helen Zia, author, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

‘What is happening here in East Africa is a social experiment that could re-educate the world about race, ethnicity, nationality, masculinity. This new resolution will not be shouted from the political steeples - it will be sung in the voices of artists. An Asian African, an African Asian, a world citizen, Shailja Patel’s work is an invitation to us to enter that complexity and be enriched by it. She is breaking boundaries. She is the face of the new globalization, the new multi-racial, cross-border fluidity that many of us are living but have not yet found words for.’
–Tade Aina, Program Director, Higher Education In Africa, Carnegie Corporation

‘Shailja Patel has written a searing cross-genre story about how imperialism and racism have affected the lives of subaltern women. The voices in Migritude are memorable in their perseverance, their blazing anger, and their unflinching intellect. I’m amazed by the
scope in which Patel confronts the brutal history of British Empire, the Ugandan dictatorship, and the current US warfare against Iraq, all the while maintaining a personal narrative that is both lyrical and full of compassion. Throughout Migritude, the image of the sari returns again and again as tradition, as Orientalist ornament, and a way of dress that is at turns both feminine and feminist. From the thicket of history’s atrocities, Patel reclaims a migrant voice that is provocative and triumphant.’
– Cathy Park Hong, Dance Dance Revolution

‘Migritude, Shailja Patel's stunning poetic debut and memoir is a bullet train ride into the 21st century. Her portrait of migration breaks through the trance of affluence to display its price -- the loss of meaning in everyday life. The stories in Migritude explode with life, vibrant, succulent and fragrant. Although she writes of rage, real and held back, calculated and adamantine, only love can distill language into light that rolls across the page, breaks over us like a warm ocean wave. Read Migritude and rejoice that Shailja Patel has brought her voice to these shores.’
– China Galland, Love Cemetery, Unburying the Secret History of Slaves


* Shailja Patel’s ‘Migritude’ is published in the US by Kaya (ISBN 9781885030054).
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.