As an introverted, Colombia-born Unitedstatesian who has lived in five countries on three continents, and as an immigrant who grew up wanting to be a writer, it was so refreshing to stumble upon Yaldaz Sadakova’s work.
Though immigrants have different stories and come from diverse backgrounds, we are all related by the experience of taking up residence in a foreign land. Every Yaldaz long-form memoir I have read made me feel like she was in my own head—as if she was either a part of me or somehow knew me. Though we have never met in person, I now consider her a member of my own kin.
Yaldaz is the kind of complex character I grew up wanting to see on the screen and in literature; yet, she’s a real person. It is this person I want to introduce: the creator of one of my favorite immigration blogs (foreignish.net), author of the book The Wrong Passport: Memoir Stories About Immigration, and a human, all too human.
In this in-depth interview, we unpack the dreaded question “Where are you from?”, its limitations, how it’s a micro-aggression, and a better question to ask; Yaldaz speaks to how she found new emotional and intellectual anchors after leaving her birth country and how she found her creative voice in a foreign land; her feelings of shame and distress about forgetting her mother tongue; becoming estranged from her Turkish Muslim heritage; we interrogate our hesitation to correct people when they mispronounce our names; she elaborates as to why she’s convinced borders are a form of injustice; and much more.
The Wrong Passport is a collection of long-form personal essays about immigration. These evergreen essays push back against many of the stereotypical depictions of immigrants in mainstream media and popular culture. In The Wrong Passport, Yaldaz explores an array of immigration experiences with nuance, masterful storytelling and unflinching honesty. These experiences include being a poor foreigner in an Ivy League school; burying big career dreams due to visa restrictions; being bullied at work because of her precarious immigration status; dealing with bias against non-native English speakers; frequently encountering the annoying “Where are you from?” question; feeling shame and distress about forgetting her mother tongue; becoming estranged from her Turkish Muslim heritage; finding it difficult to make new friends and establish a social support network as a foreigner who happens to be an introvert; and more.
Paperback: USD $16.99
Yaldaz Sadakova is a writer and editor in Toronto. She’s the creator of Foreignish.net, a blog for long-form memoir stories about immigration. She’s also the author of The Wrong Passport, a collection of her memoir stories about immigration. Born and raised in Bulgaria as a member of the country’s Turkish minority, Yaldaz currently lives in Toronto. Her previous homes include Brussels and New York City.
Julián Esteban Torres López (he/him) is a bilingual, Colombia-born journalist, publisher, podcaster, author, researcher, educator, editor, and culture worker with Afro-Euro-Indigenous roots. Before founding the social justice storytelling organization The Nasiona, he ran several cultural and arts organizations, edited journals and books, was a social justice and public history researcher, wrote a column for Colombia Reports, taught university courses, and managed a history museum. He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions nominee and has written two books on social justice. Torres López holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.