“We must remember…
… race is a construct…
… class is a construct…
… gender is a construct.
Beneath it all we are quivering flesh.
Glistening in the sun.
Goose-pimpled in the moon.”
― Sabba Khan, What is Home, Mum?
Examining families across generations is a major theme present in Sabba Khan’s graphic memoir, What is Home, Mum? Khan explores the idea of where home is as she traces her life from childhood through to adulthood with back-and-forth breaks to different timelines, similar to how our memories track through time.
Khan is a second-generation Pakistani immigrant living in East London, juggling her contemporary British Asian life alongside the expectations set by her family. Khan’s parents were forced to move to the United Kingdom in the 1960s and build a brand new life for themselves. Both were the oldest children of the patriarchs, so they were expected to help family and friends with whatever they needed whenever they needed it. Their new lives in the United Kingdom were rife with struggles as they worked to preserve their culture and family bonds as immigrants. Khan picks up the story by examining her family’s British Pakistani diaspora experience and how her own life falls amid her family. Khan is so honest in her journey to find her truth. She is bravely curious and incredibly courageous in her self exploration and expression. Khan talks about a wide variety of topics and how they all interconnect to build a life.
This graphic memoir goes much deeper than I expected and I am so grateful for that. Khan begins by discussing the collective – her family as a whole. She outlines her ancestors, her heritage, and her native land that her family was forced to abandon. Through this, readers learn about the different relationships she has with various family members and how said relationships shaped her thoughts and beliefs. Khan talks about her emotions and constantly reexamines why she believes what she believes. What I enjoyed were her examinations of the cerebral and how that juxtaposed with the emotional. As she grows up throughout the book, Khan examines her family’s values and beliefs and how they match(or don’t match) society as a whole. The idea of the collective vs the individual is a core principle threading through her life. These complexities create issues for Khan as she intensely examines racism, gender, religion, class, and culture. Her identity is complex. Her journey to discovery is an intimate process that she allows readers to view with the understanding that everything is fluid.