San Francisco, CA: The lives of millions in this great nation of immigrants changed for ever ever since the nation was attacked on The 9/11 by terrorists. Especially, the lives of the South Asian Americans have indelibly changed who now live in a daily climate of fear and suspicion, said long-time Indian American community activist Deepa Iyer during a reading of her new book, “We Too Sing America” on January 20, 2016.
The 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., was a “watershed moment” for Iyer, who was working at the time as an attorney in New York. “I heard immediately from Sikhs and Arabs and Muslims who were being harassed.”
“Safety is elusive even in our mosques, temples and gurdwaras. We receive messages that we are diluting the culture of America,” said the writer before reading from her book, which chronicles the violence against South Asian Americans in the 15 years since 9/11.
An audience of more than 70 people gathered at The Booksmith in San Francisco’s iconic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which had sparked a revolution 50 years ago. Four local community activists joined Iyer for a panel discussion after the reading.
Iyer co-founded South Asian Americans Leading Together shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and served as the organization’s executive director for 12 years before stepping down in January 2014. In 2009, Iyer and SAALT developed the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, an umbrella group of 43 community-based organizations.
She is now a senior fellow at the New York-based Center for Social Inclusion. Iyer, who was born in South India, but moved to Kentucky when she was 12, said she had always experienced episodes of “racial confusion.”
“We entered a process of double grieving for the victims of 9/11 and for the scape-goating our community was facing,” she told her audience. Her goal in writing the book, published by The New Press, was to “document the life experiences of post 9/11 America” and to expose the links between Islamophobia and xenophobia and racial anxiety. Iyer called upon her audience to become “bridge builders” to other communities of color.