Porochista Khakpour was born in Tehran in 1978 and raised in the Greater Los Angeles area (South Pasadena, to be exact). Her first language was Farsi, her second (and luckily mostly forgotten) tongue, Valley Girl. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and The Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars MA program. She has been awarded fellowships from Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo.
She began writing as an arts and entertainment journalist—her subjects have spanned from clubs (Paul Oakenfold!) to couture (Paul Poiret!); Maggie Gyllenhaal (Maggie’s first big feature!) to Fabio (Porochista’s first feature at 16!); New York City’s finest drinking establishments (Paper magazine bar columnist, 2000-2001, as well as New York magazine online bar critic) to rural Illinois’s most dangerous skydiving compound (2004 staff writer stint at The Chicago Reader). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader, Paper, Flaunt, Nylon, Bidoun, Alef, Canteen, nerve.com and FiveChapters.com, among others.
She currently spends a third of her time in New York City and two thirds three hours away in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where she teaches Fiction at Bucknell University.
Question: Is the image of the victimized Middle Eastern woman accurate?
Khakpour: You know someone once asked me, you know, why did you choose to write about Middle Eastern men and not Middle Eastern women? I don’t know their reality. I don’t know any women in Iran who have had to wear the ___________, you know. I don’t know women of that era. My mother, you know, was in Iran last in the ‘70s at the height of the __________, you know. And she . . . In the summers she would go shopping in Milan. And you know they were quite western at that point. I don’t know what it’s like for Middle Eastern women today. But from what I’ve heard, you know Iran is the . . . From what I’ve heard, they are . . . they are a little bit perplexed by the image of Iranian women as incredibly downtrodden. There’s lots of jokes, and proverbs, and __________ about how, you know, Middle Eastern . . . or Iranian women are this force and the real force of the household, and I tend to believe in that. Obviously what’s happened since the revolution, it’s been horrible for women. And you know incredible human rights violations have been specifically targeting women. But I think their day-to-day reality is different. And Iran is a country where the majority of people . . . university . . . the majority of the university students are women. I think that’s interesting in spite of what’s been happening there. So it’s tricky to speak on that. Maybe that’s part of why I chose to focus on Middle Eastern men. They’re . . . I have an easier time imagining what it’s like for them. It’s . . . There . . . It’s a more complicated mixed bag with what’s happening with women there.