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When You Ask Me Where I'm Going

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Poetry (2019)
Perfect for fans of Rupi Kaur and Elizabeth Acevedo, Jasmin Kaur’s stunning debut novel is a collection of poetry, illustrations, and prose.

so that one day
a hundred years from now
another sister will not have to
dry her tears wondering
where in history
she lost her voice

The six sections of the book explore what it means to be a young woman living in a world that doesn’t always hear her and tell the story of Kiran as she flees a history of trauma and raises her daughter, Sahaara, while living undocumented in North America.

Delving into current cultural conversations including sexual assault, mental health, feminism, and immigration, this narrative of resilience, healing, empowerment, and love will galvanize readers to fight for what is right in their world.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2019

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About the author

Jasmin Kaur

3 books181 followers
Jasmin Kaur is a writer, illustrator and spoken word artiste living in Vancouver, BC. Her writing, which explores feminism, social empowerment, love and survival, acts as a means of healing and reclaiming identity. As an arts facilitator and fourth-grade teacher, Jasmin has been leading creative-writing workshops for young people across North America, the UK, and Australia over the past five years.

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5 stars
719 (32%)
4 stars
818 (37%)
3 stars
482 (22%)
2 stars
123 (5%)
1 star
43 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 394 reviews
Profile Image for Beatrice Masaluñga.
1,136 reviews1,663 followers
November 10, 2019
Beautiful and emotionally powerful.

From beginning till the end, I’m drawn by this collection. Its message was so loud and clear that it creeps into my heart and soul. Admittedly, it was quite draining especially when the author talks about violence and mental health. Each poems felt personal and that makes this collection even more precious. So much feels.
Profile Image for Sara Jovanovic.
300 reviews73 followers
October 5, 2019
Without a doubt one of the strongest collections I read this year. I only recently heard of Jasmin Kaur because of her poem Scream, and I knew I had to check out her debut as soon as it comes out. Her writing style is flawless and she effortlessly manages to incorporate so many strong emotions into her pieces. This was a really unique poetry collection, and one that made me feel a lot. I loved how Jasmine wrote this using many different forms, not strictly poems. They had a depth to them and I loved the topics she wrote about. I can't say I didn't have high expectations for this, but I've managed to get even more than I wanted.

And now I just want to read every single thing Jasmine writes next.

think about it

i am told to stop
thinking so much

and i wonder why
it is that in order to
survive in this world
i must not use
my mind.
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews344 followers
September 28, 2019
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth Mowbray

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going is a thought-provoking debut novel which weaves together poetry, prose, and illustrations in a rare and extraordinary fashion. The foundation of this book is the narrative of a young immigrant mother escaping a history of trauma to live undocumented and raise her daughter in North America. This core body of prose is surrounded by poems and artwork that explores and embraces a broad range of issues related to culture, immigration, feminism, stigma, and much more.

Perhaps a daunting concept to other debut writers, Kaur censors herself little in this book. With a dynamic, resounding voice she explores themes that are profound yet easy to consider and engage with throughout the text. Dividing the book into six sections, Kaur groups the lessons and insight she imparts into topics named primarily for parts of the human body: “skin,” “nerve,” and “heart,” for example. Within these sections she then tackles a multitude of themes that resonate within our contemporary personal and political worlds—race, ethnicity, and discrimination; trauma, abuse, and mental health in the context of interpersonal relationships; the daunting journey of motherhood, made a heavier task by the compounding external factors of today’s society.

Perhaps the greatest theme, however, the theme underlying all others, is that of identity. How we define ourselves, our inherent value and worth, as well as how it is defined for us by others based upon their own (often skewed) lens of people and the world around them. Kaur explores the idea of being assessed by one’s appearance rather than what is underneath or held inside. She conveys the pain of being categorized as “other” based on one’s race, ethnicity, or culture and fighting the pressure to fit a certain “mold” formed by the assumptions of others. She explores the process of learning to be comfortable as oneself rather than being trapped by the meaning all too often assigned by others when you are part of a certain group. And she then underlines these ideas by providing a historical context, both personal and global.

Tagged for ages 14+, this deeply moving work is sure to draw both young and older adults. Raw and introspective, both painful and uplifting to read, When You Ask Me Where I’m Going seamlessly conveys a vast spectrum of emotions in a very real way that the reader can easily connect with. Much of the subject matter is quite difficult to process, however Kaur does not flinch, does not hide from it. She writes with anger and outrage, with confidence and empathy, with sadness and hope. Her authorial voice is crisp and clear, bold and determined. Kaur expresses a genuine desire to embrace life and to see the world – in fact, to see each human being – do better.
1 review2 followers
May 27, 2019
Five stars. As a brown man, I learned a lot about the challenges that Sikh women face through reading this book and it was a humbling experience. This book needs to reach kaurs, South Asians and the rest of the world. It's so amazing to see our experiences as Punjabis captured in a book like this. The poetry was deep and insightful into the author's mind as a young, Punjabi woman living abroad. The short story of Kiran and her daughter left me wanting more. Even though we only saw a short amount of their story, I feel connected to them and reeled from the cliffhanger that Kaur left us on. I hope their story doesn't end there. I can't wait until the rest of the world gets to read this book.
1 review2 followers
May 27, 2019
This book is very captivating. I really liked how the author used different voices and types of storytelling (poem, short story). The political poems in this book are very relevant to this day and age but the book is timeless. I read this poem to my mom and it made me tear up:

a woman once
offered me a pencil
and i thanked her profusely

another offered me life
again and again
and i never got around
to thanking her.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
1 review3 followers
May 26, 2019
This book is impeccably written and it’s flow is smoother than butter! It’s always amazing seeing the perspective of women of colour in a society where their voices are often drowned out. On top of that, this book gives voice to a Sikh woman, which is an underrepresented group within an underrepresented group. All in all an amazing read! Definitely recommend.
1 review2 followers
May 31, 2019
In terms of layout and content, this book is unlike any book that I've read before! I loved how Jasmin didn't stick to the typical structure of a book, and there was an interchange of poetry, prose, illustrations, and short story. The book left me quite somber, and each and every piece of writing had me in a reflective state.
1 review1 follower
March 9, 2019
Jasmin Kaur’s ability to capture emotion with such depth, intensity and clarity, creates a reading experience of joy and wonder. Having read nuggets of her poetry on Instagram, I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!
Profile Image for Amy Bruestle.
273 reviews204 followers
December 11, 2019
First off, let me say that I was given this book in exchange for an honest review...

And boy oh boy am I glad! I love writing poetry myself, at least I used to. I haven’t written any in a while, but now that I have read this it makes me want to get my poetry journal out and see what I can come up with! That is saying a lot, because I really don’t get inspired easily!

This book was extremely POWERFUL and MEANINGFUL. At least to me it was. Such profound poetry and important truths and realities being expressed in such a clever way! The artwork made the book that much more fun to read as well, while the design and placing of the words made you think. It really was a perfect combination of beauty and point! I am so glad I had the chance to read this, and even more glad that I get to say that I am a proud owner of this book so I can get it out and look back on it whenever I want!

I have taken so many quotes from this book and used them on so many things since reading it!
1 review1 follower
Want to read
April 12, 2019
This beautiful poets words touch my heart on such a profound level, I always go back to a time in my life where I really needed those kind and gentle words for my fragile soul. As I near 48, the words speak to my 25 year old inner self on levels I'm still discovering and coming to terms with. Thank you Jasmin for taking me back to a place I'm still learning to be at peace with. To a place I am still nurturing, forgiving, learning to love and most of all learning to understand. I always look forward to your daily writings and most of all cannot wait to finally read this book I have heard so much about. Your beauty bounces off the page and brightens my days. Thank you.
Profile Image for Saeda Marwan.
Author 1 book38 followers
September 5, 2021
the sun rises
& israel drags his feet across gaza’s chest.
settles across her skin & waits empty-eyed for
it to tear
& a white man sits atop amerikkka & calls
brown skin a furnace. says that we consume
each other in smoke & flame. that it is better
we burn each other to ash than intrude on his
& a cop in punjab empties out a cartridge.
cleans it out in a young singh’s body & names
it necessity. decides to side with a system that
puts food on the table & bodies in rivers
& a woman floats in space. stares at the earth
as the sun cowers behind it. watches existence
light up in twinkling cities & villages. wishes
humanity could step back to stare at itself.
Profile Image for Erika Sarutobi.
599 reviews23 followers
March 13, 2020
A definite must read if you like instapoetry or powerful poems

Profile Image for Debbie.
325 reviews27 followers
May 12, 2020
4.5 stars

This poetry/prose collection is so emotive and powerful, and one of the best examples I’ve seen of modern poetry done right. While some of the poems followed the easily relatable “Insta poetry” pattern, they had much more depth and layers to them than I’ve found in other collections, and therefore left a more lasting impression rather than feeling so accessible or relatable that they became generic.

I saved most of my favorite poems as Kindle highlights, but a few were incorporated into illustrations and therefore weren’t highlightable, so I’ve saved them below:


so that one day
a hundred years from now
another sister will not have to
dry her tears wondering
where in history
she lost her voice


you are not the moon
and the tides of my
well-being will not
be pulled by your
every mood

you are not the sun
and I will not move
helplessly to the rhythm
of your burning orbit.


after all this time
you hold back the tide
behind your eyes
thinking i cannot


are neither river nor sun
neither moon nor light

you are too present
in this skin to be held
by a metaphor


they say lavender softens anxiety
and I wonder whether I can
plant a garden so dense
in your mind
that the knots in your chest unravel
and never tighten again.


I am teaching myself that there is
no shame in filling more space
than these two lungs.


I have no desire
for words that float
on water

I want language so thick
it will drown me with it.
Profile Image for Tamin Atwal.
1 review
May 26, 2019
Jasmin Kaur speaks and writes very eloquently. Her writing style touches the heart and makes a huge social statement at the same time. Hey writing has the ability to move you to tears. For this I'm so excited to get my hands on this book! 💕 I can't wait.
1 review2 followers
March 9, 2019
Eagerly anticipated! If Jasmin’s previous works are anything to go by, this will surely be an enthralling read.
1 review2 followers
March 9, 2019
can't wait to finally read this book! jasmin kaur is a talented story teller, organizer, educator, and poet whose deft economy of words bears the weight of multitudes of human experience.
Profile Image for antonia.
391 reviews98 followers
February 17, 2021
"right now, i am okay. right now feels like honeyed sunlight pouring into a quiet room. like seafood curling around my ankles and all the butterflies in my stomach finally at rest. like every field in punjab watered and flourishing. like each cell in my body waking up to sing. like going home and not being afraid. i just thought you should know. i mean, remember. because i'm sure it won't always feel like this. but i don't want you to forget that this moment was possible. it can happen again. and again."

my first 5 star read of the year and it was a poetry book? who am i?
i bought this book completely on a whim because i follow the author on instagram and to be honest i didn't have high expectations for it. i haven't liked poetry books i recently picked up and thought i was done with the genre. but this was absolutely breathtaking. Jasmin Kaur has a way with words that i have rarely encountered before. this book does not only contain beautiful poems, it also has written elements of fiction in it that were equally beautiful as the poems. When You Ask Me Where I'm Going does not let you read through it quickly. i had to reread many pages multiple times because i realized i didn't pay enough attention to do the book justice. some poems even had me a bit teary. it's hard to describe what it's about, Kaur covers immigration, toxic masculinity, abuse, love and just life in a way that any review wouldn't do it justice.

i would highly recommend this to anyone that is by any chance reading this review right now and i will definitely pick up Jasmin Kaurs next book soon.
Profile Image for Mery ✨.
611 reviews34 followers
May 11, 2021

"My generations aches to capture everything down to the aesthetics of a meal. The trouble is, there is no way to preserve life in a photograph"

Kaurs collection is a knockout. Her poetry conquers difficult subjects and breathes new life into the form. In her book she displays a vast variety of poetry, creative writing, and illustrations that left me speechless. Her writing is extremely powerful and unafraid of divulging what is on her mind. This book explores themes of feminism, social justice, and mental health, and strikes the truth on each subject.

"I tell myself that my body is a garden of flowers but when most of us are caught up in the scent of roses we forget about the dirt that they bloom from."

Profile Image for Chloe.
270 reviews4 followers
June 29, 2019
I'm not much of a poetry reader, but this book definitely pushed me to re-evaluate my stance on contemporary poetry. Jasmin Kaur packs so many relevant, hard-hitting topics into a small number of words. Each one felt carefully selected and beautifully expressed. Between the illustrations, poetry, and sections of prose, the book is so varied it never gets tiresome. What captivated me most though was the fictional story of Kiran and Sahaara. My only wish is that it was longer! It felt a little disjointed smack dab in the middle of this semi-autobiographical poetry and left me with many unanswered questions.

Ultimately though, I would recommend this book to anyone looking to branch out and step into poetry. It's the perfect blend, meaning that there were several relatable moments for me as a reader (discussions of trauma, growth, women's empowerment, etc), but there were many parts that were wholly new and unfamiliar as well. Kaur has a very thoughtful, fresh perspective that we don't often hear from—her words hold a certain weight and importance. Very excited for this book to come out this October.

Profile Image for Casey, with a book.
493 reviews62 followers
July 8, 2019
A collection of illustrated poems and prose in the vein of #instragrampoets like Rupi Kaur (and less-so Elizabeth Acevedo, as the comp states). I generally find this genre of poetry oversimplified and not particularly artful, but I do appreciate how topical it is and I think it will resonate with teens and those with whom Rupi has struck a cord.
1 review1 follower
March 12, 2019
I've been following Jasmin for a long time and have always found her poetry profound and enthralling. I can't wait to get this book!
1 review2 followers
June 4, 2019
A very well written book which is very thought evoking - as is always to be expected from any of Jasmin Kaur’s work. A must read!
Profile Image for Claudiu Mihail.
49 reviews16 followers
January 5, 2020
"When You Ask Me Where I'm Going" este un volum de poezie, proză și poezie grafică despre cultură, rasism și cicatricile vizibile și interne ale persoanelor invadate, considerate inferioare. Jasmine Kaur expune suferința femeii pusă față în față cu tradițiile și nedreptățile figurii masculine dominante.
Profile Image for Julie.
259 reviews16 followers
January 17, 2021
**Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for providing me with a copy of this book.**

Actual rating: 3.5

This was a really well-done book of poetry and prose. I enjoyed the addition of the artwork, and how some things were handwritten and drawn. It added more of a personal element to the poems and the story as a whole. It was also interesting how there was prose through the middle that told a story. Mixed media can make a more interesting read!
I liked how Jasmin Kaur explores such serious topics in these poems, but contrasts them with poems about more abstract or natural things. 

I enjoyed the poems and think it is well done, this is more just a "it's not you, it's me." I feel like if I was someone who genuinely enjoyed all modern poetry and forms of poetry, I would have enjoyed it a lot more and been able to rate it higher. Unfortunately, I'm a bit picky with poetry... 
I will say though that it was kind of fun to read something that referenced an area of Canada I know quite well!

Note: there are pop culture references that some may be uncomfortable with in light of recent author actions (HP related)
Profile Image for Renata.
422 reviews280 followers
January 19, 2021
You know I love this type of books specially when I'm not in the mood to read a long book, since I finish them super fast and boosts my energy.

I think this one had some interesting and good poems, and specially I loved the art. But also, some of them were ordinary ones and I didn't felt connected at all.

Overral, it was a nice one.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
730 reviews115 followers
March 18, 2022
While this is promoted as a novel written through poems, prose, and illustrations, I am certain many of the words in this book came from the depth of Jasmin’s own experiences and pain; that they are not simply emblems of fiction. You cannot write loneliness, rage, and sadness with such ferocity if you haven’t known their constricting ways firsthand.

As a book of poetry, this is a phenomenal work, especially in the beginning. While I cannot relate to certain aspects, such as the trials of immigration, many of the poems were universal to all women and some speak specifically to trauma survivors. I was fully immersed, page after page, in these poignant bits of emotion - their raw, profound ache captivating my heart and mind.

The first 117 pages were, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a five star read for me.

Then, unexpectedly, after such hypnotic poetic flow, this DID turn into a story. I was caught off guard and pulled out so completely that I had to set the book aside for a few days.

I’ve no desire to criticize the way Jasmin Kaur chose to arrange her art and I’m sure this was meaningful for her. But I don’t understand the startling break in format and I wasn’t fond of it. Perhaps if the book had started as a story with poems tucked between the regular passages, I would have enjoyed the layout a bit more.

The format break only lasted 30 pages, but it felt like it was much longer than that. While the two first person narratives provided context for the poetry, the lack of depth proved a crude change of pace. A lot of things were hinted at and while it was easy to read between the lines, I do believe this needed more development to make it effective.

If I’m understanding the format correctly, the poems that precede the story are a reflection of Kiran’s thoughts, while the poems that follow represent her daughter, Sahaara’s heart. I’m inclined to guess that Jasmin Kaur related more to the character of Kiran, as I didn’t feel the concluding poems packed the same punch at all. They felt more like contrived cliches; solely sparks of fiction, instead of gut-wrenching emotion carefully crafted into words.

It pains me to say that the end result in my reading experience was disappointment, but that’s where this left me. While I was eager to get to Jasmin’s next book when I started this one, I’m not sure now, as I fear the continued journey of these characters won’t impact me in the way that they should, especially if the writing feels as forced as the end of this book did. I would love to simply get more of the author’s heart and less of a story, unless that story successfully draws from the same power that some of her poetry does.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Olivia.
2,972 reviews66 followers
September 2, 2019
See my full review here: https://www.yabookscentral.com/yafict...

WHEN YOU ASK ME WHERE I'M GOING is an absolutely gorgeous collection that reaches to touch the soul. In poems, prose, and drawings, Kaur evokes a multitude of emotions from laughter to tears in beautifully written and illustrated words. It is hard to do this collection justice, but I feel as though I have peeked inside someone personal journal and left feeling all new feelings and with such depth.

What I loved: Putting into words how much this collection made me feel is difficult. This book spoke to my soul, and there are so many beautiful poems and written pieces that are complimented by intriguing illustrations. The book covers a number of topics in ways that evoke emotion and thoughts. I really loved it, even when they were not comfortable. Through this book, there are many lessons about feminism and immigration that appeal and educate.

I would add warnings for mental illness, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and racism.

Final verdict: This gorgeous collection is one I would highly recommend in general, but especially if you want a deep exploration of life. This book feels like a delicious look into a personal journal, and it really pulls the readers in and connects with them and their emotions. Would recommend to older YA readers.
Profile Image for Cátia Vieira.
Author 1 book773 followers
February 11, 2020
'When You Ask Where I'm Going' by Jasmin Kaur approaches many different topics (from feminism, to mental health, sexual assault and identity) under many different formats but one of the things she talks about is exactly that: take time, take your time to fully appreciate and just be. This book is filled with poems, illustrations and prose. This miscellany of genres and forms of expression represents our diverse and plural identity.

Like Kaur's book, we aren’t one thing. We are immense. We are many things. Especially when you’re an immigrant, one of the major topics of her book. I highly recommend 'When You Ask Where I'm Going' if you are a fan of Rupi Kaur or if you’re always frightened of reading poetry. I think this book explores the topics in a very interesting way. It reads like a melody.

Thanks to Harper Collins for sending a copy my way! For more reviews, follow me on Instagram: @booksturnyouon
Profile Image for Maria Eileen Wheeler.
49 reviews2 followers
June 19, 2022
fold the
unfinished poems
of our
people into
lanterns and
release them

let light fill
all the spaces
where words
cannot yet go

I think this is an amazing debut collection and that Jasmin Kaur is so talented! I definitely recommend the audiobook, as it is narrated by the author and she speaks so clearly and impactfully. This is definitely one of the better collections I've read so far this year and I look forward to reading the sequel!

I cannot wait to read more of her work, especially If I Tell You The Truth, as it is supposed to weave in Kiran’s and Sahaara’s timelines together, which was my favourite part of When You Ask Me Where I'm Going! I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book and hopefully enjoy it just as much as I did reading this one!

4 ⭐️
Profile Image for Jamie (Books and Ladders).
1,265 reviews188 followers
August 25, 2019
See this review and more on Books and Ladders!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book and chose to review it. This in no way impacts my opinion.

I absolutely loved this. It had such a good mix of poetry that spoke from the heart of someone who wanted to be heard as a person and as an immigrant. I loved the mix between the poetry, illustrations, and prose. I feel like I will get more out of this each time I read it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 394 reviews

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