Listen to the Poem in English
Safia El Hillo — Original Text
Did our mothers invent loneliness or did it make them our mothers?
Were we fathered by silence or just looking to explain away this quiet?
Is it wasteful to pray for our brothers in a language they never learned?
Whose daughters are we if we grow old before our mothers?
For their sake they called our grandfathers the January children,
Lined up by the colonizer and assigned birth years by height
There is no answer because
We come from men who do not know when they were born
Who married women shown to them in photographs
Whose children left the country and tried for romance
And had daughters full of all the wrong language
Safia El Hillo (1990-present) is a Sudanese-American poet and the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (One World/Random House, forthcoming), and the novel in verse Home Is Not A Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021). Her work centers on themes of cultural identity, home, belonging, displacement, womanhood, generational trauma as well as the Sudanese diaspora. Her writing describes in sensory detail the experiences of her ancestors as well as the conditions of those living within the diaspora. Her work continues to be influential and healing for her readers.
An Inheritance begins by embracing the reader in recognition of generational trauma and its impact on families. It raises important questions that provide moments of comfort for the reader to grieve within. She refers to The January Children, which she defines as “the generation born in Sudan under British occupation, where children were assigned birth years by height, all given the birth date January 1.” Sudan declared independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956.
The Persona as a Portal in The January Children. https://blog.pshares.org/the-persona-as-a-portal-in-the-january-children/. Accessed 26 Dec. 2021.
The January Children (Kobo EBook) | The Dock Bookshop. https://www.thedockbookshop.com/ebook/9781496200075. Accessed 26 Dec. 2021.