Bharati Mukherjee, author of prominent novels such as Jasmine and The Tiger’s Daughter, died on January 28, 2017. She was 76.
Mukherjee was born in Kolkata, India and graduated from the University of Calcutta in 1959 and a Master’s from the University of Baroda. Mukherjee pursued additional graduate degrees in the United States, receiving a Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa’s Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a doctorate in Comparative Literature from the same school.
Mukherjee is perhaps best known for her novel, Jasmine, which was published in 1989 and which explores the shifting identities of a young Indian woman as she seeks to find her place while growing up in America. Jasmine received widespread acclaim for its exploration of Asian American female identity — and specifically, Indian American female identity — when the genre of Asian American fiction was still in its infancy. The book also holds personal resonance for its formative role in my own growth as a student of Asian American literature and history, and for its unapologetic centering of a South Asian American female protagonist during a time in American literature when such writing was virtually unheard of.
I was deeply saddened to learn last night from Phil of YOMYOMF (via Byron Wong of bigWOWO) that the Asian American blogosphere has lost one of its oldest members. Last week, Keon Enoy Muneduoang — who wrote under the moniker the Minority Militant — died at the age of 35.
Deeply protective of his anonymity and known to his online readers as the Militant or “TMM”, TMM occupied a corner of the Asian American blogosphere that had little overlap with my own. Nonetheless, the Asian American blogosphere is very small and close-knit. Regardless of our political disagreements, we typically pull together, support one another, and defend each other in our work and our advocacy. Even if we may not know one another offline, we remain consistently unwavering colleagues and allies. This is, above all, a community, and — because it is a very small one — Asian American writers and bloggers always have one another’s backs.
Today, the entire community mourns the passing of one of our own.
I’m hearing reports through my networks that Yuri Kochiyama, the incredible civil rights hero whose life of dedicated work to social justice inspired a generation of young activists including myself, passed away last night at the age of 93. The reports are still unconfirmed nationally, although sources close to Kochiyama’s family are confirming her passing.
Yuri Kochiyama was a hero and an icon to me.
Yuri Kochiyama was a survivor of a Japanese American internment camp in rural Arkansas, where she encountered the heinous racism of the Jim Crow South. In an interview with Kochiyama published in Fred Ho‘s Legacy to Liberation, Revolutionary Worker writes that it was the parallels between her own experiences as a Japanese American with the mistreatment of Black People under Jim Crow that first propelled Kochiyama towards social justice work. Throughout her life, Yuri Kochiyama worked as a member of both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Movement, but she also devoted her energies to causes like freeing political prisoners domestically and around the world. She is often cited for her work with the Black liberation movement, through which she had a brief friendship with Malcolm X. She was at Malcolm X’s side when he died of a gunshot wound on February 21, 1965.
But, for me, what makes Yuri Kochiyama a legend and an inspiration was the philosophy that fueled her life of dedication to social justice efforts.