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Thirteen Reasons Why My Family Speaks Loudly

Updated: Mar 15

A poem by Shalini Rana with artwork from Khadija-tul-Kubra.

Shalini Rana

After Natalie Diaz


Because we have an excess of liquid courage, most of us being wine-guzzling vegetarians.


Our matriarchs are the ones to raise their voices. Mumma to yell random noises that startle the dog, masi to tip her head back and laugh like a boombox, nanisa to repeat America as the reason she shouts too much. Because each of them now past fifty equals—unstoppable.


Because heated debate usually just means being drunk on language.


So that I join the fight to get a word in, but my voice being soft and low registers as whisper, might later land louder on a page.


So that we focus on sound, not meaning, because being reminded we still have our hearing is what allows us to read each other’s voices across the room.


A Guardian article suggests Italians are loud because Italian is spoken at a high speed, and naturally, notes grow louder when music is played faster. So maybe because every mouth in this family moves at 100 mph most nights.


The same reason Italian families speak loudly.


The same reason [x] families speak loudly.


Because when this country feels far from home, loud is our compass to safety.


Because we were already loud in our hands. Knocking wine glasses off the table when telling stories is called tradition.


Because we arrived in ‘66, when our freedom was made possible by a systematic erasure of other voices. A struggle that preceded us.


Because what is a house without booming laughter, bottles of wine, and pots of sabji to fill it?

Answer: a picture frame with the sample photo of a blonde and blue-eyed family still inside.


Really though, our loudness is our togetherness, and it reminds us of the opposite: a chance at our own fracture. Nanisa speaks a mantra at every family dinner: we will never be like them. The estranged white families, she means. Though, here, it is easy.

1956 by Khadija-tul-Kubra (oil on canvas; 2021)


Shalini Rana is an Indian American poet from the Washington, D.C. area. She is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation. Her accolades include the 2021 James T. Whitehead Award for Poetry, judged by Kayleb Rae Candrilli; the 2020 Carolyn F. Walton Cole Endowed Fund in Creative Writing; and third place in the 2018 Steger Poetry Prize, judged by Nikki Giovanni. Her work appears in Salt Hill, wildness, Rappahannock Review, and elsewhere. Find her at

Khadija-tul-Kubra is an emerging artist who graduated with honours in fine arts from the National College of Arts (Lahore). Born in Karachi, she is currently practicing in Lahore, where she has co-founded an artist commune that hosts open studios, critiques, residencies and reading sessions.Her preferred medium is oil on canvas, but she dabbles in printmaking and sculpture as well. Khadijah takes an interest in archives of personal photographs and internal spaces. She has exhibited her work at O Art Space, Dominion Gallery, the Lahore Museum and elsewhere; her work is also part of the permanent collection of a heritage hotel in Murree.


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