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Esma Ashraf Weaves Languages Together to Share Her Stories and Heritage

Passion fuels the poetry that empowers Esma Ashraf to paint the images of her dreams and experiences. Her diversified background and bilingual heritage add a distinctive color to her palette of work, including her latest collection of poems: Afsanah in her words.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Ashraf began writing and publishing poetry in her native Urdu. She moved to the United States after getting married. She finished her graduation degree from New York University in Clinical Social Work. While there, she embraced her new identity as a Pakistani-American and began writing in English. She published one of her first poems; “Wish List” in Brown Girl Magazine that caters to the South Asian population. “This gave me courage to keep writing poems,” she says.

Shades of Culture

Her first collection of poetry, Shamma: The Dancing Flame, was published in 2019, delicately weaving together two different shades of culture. Shamma, meaning “a flame of the candle,” reflects the ethnicity of South Asia, where a woman’s identity is expressed in her dedication and passion toward her ultimate love. On one side, her flame brightens the dull moments, and on the other, she melts into the arms of her own destiny. Her only strength is to spread rays of love to others.

“This is a feminine name that has created a unique identity to me,” Ashraf says. “Shamma is fire, she is vivacious, and has the love to spread around.” In 2019, Shamma: The Dancing Flame was awarded best poetry book by The Independent Author Book Expo (IABX). Ashraf’s latest work, Afsanah in her words, is a book of romantic poems that offers insight into the author’s heart, journey through life, and perspective of the world around her. Afsanah, means “story” in Urdu language that explores the power of words by the ink of tears .

The book also has poetic titles in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and English, along with translations. “The poems’ titles incorporate one or two foreign words to signify a key meaning. However, the poems are written in English,” she says. Ashraf is continuing her passion for storytelling through a series of short stories that she plans to publish sometime in the future. The stories also reflect her life and rich heritage. “I love Hudson Valley,” By sharing her thoughts, she says. “I want my neighbors and community members to know how life is tasted, smelt and felt in a different land.”

Sharing Dreams and Culture

In her literary work, Ashraf started to pen down her dreams and experiences by adding the value of her cultural heritage. This is a unique way where East blends into West.

“There are many Pakistani and Indian writers who share their ethnic roots in the form of poetry, storytelling or any sort of art work, are appreciated and loved by many. The romance, the concept of spiritual love, the elements of Patriarchial nature, our food, the spices, our festivals, gender inequality; they all are the reflection of our society. I would like to give that experience to my readers,” she says. “I speak and live that language, and I want to present and share that with the world.”

Esma Ashraf’s books are available on Amazon, Archway Publishing, and Barnes and Noble (online), or through her website at shammastories.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @esmashraf.

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