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Sheorani and Kamelia Kilawan Oral History

Sheorani Kilawan, a claims supervisor at the New York State Insurance Fund, speaks with her daughter Kamelia Kilawan, a journalist who worked most recently for Al Jazeera English in Qatar, at their family home in South Ozone Park, Queens. Sheorani, who had worked in a sewing factory near her village of Albion in Berbice, Guyana, remembers the uncertainty and apprehension that she felt coming to the United States as a young bride, through an arranged marriage. She describes marriage to a man or woman in the United States as one of the few "loopholes" to leave the country in the 1980s, when it was impoverished and in the grip of a repressive regime. Sheorani recalls starting out in a crowded apartment in the Bronx, navigating the city on her own to find a job, being undone by unfamiliar currency as a candidate for a job as a bank teller and ultimately finding the confidence to convince a bank to hire her. When she came to America, Sheorani brought a lota and taari, objects to perform the routines of Hindu worship, and a framed photograph of the god Ram and his wife Sita, the divine epitome of wifely devotion.

This photograph was taken on Jan. 23, 1988 at JFK shortly after Sheorani Kilawan's arrival.

Duration: 00:46:32

Date: July 30, 2020
Subject(s): Sheorani Kilawan
Type: Oral History
Source: Archival Creators Fellowship Program
Creator: Kamelia Kilawan
Location: Queens, NY

Collection: Gaiutra Bahadur Fellowship Project
Item History: 2020-08-28 (created); 2020-08-28 (modified)

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