Khakpour: I thought . . . You know after 9/11 I just . . . I was really, really interested in what made Middle Eastern men tick; and I was just interested in the profiles of the terrorists; and I was interested in the media’s portrayal of the profiles of the terrorists; and the idea of Osama bin Laden; and the idea of Muslim radicals; and I was also fascinated by people like my father or my brother who were completely outside of that. And I’ve always written . . . I’ve always tended to write from a middle-aged male perspective already. Most of my short stories were always about men in mid life. So it was sort of natural for me to go there with . . . with the Middle Easterners somehow. I just thought there had been so much also written about women of the Middle East. And so much of it was getting so stereotypical and hysterical in a sense. You know it’s a loaded word with women. Oops. But it really was. I was so sick of these books coming out about Middle Eastern women or Iranian women in veils, cooking spices in a kitchen, and crying all the time. It wasn’t my reality, and it wasn’t a reality I’d observed. And I was sick of it, and I had a feeling those books were just getting published because of the “not without my daughter” syndrome in the U.S. And I just . . . I wanted to look at the men. I thought their story was interesting, and the set of pressures they dealt with were endlessly fascinating. So I started with my own . . . my own father and my brother in a way and expanded from there. And now my second novel sort of deals more with terrorist mindset and those other to my own reality. But . . . I think I have always read books by middle aged men. I grew up very much loving, I would say, the books in Harold Bloom’s western canon for whatever reason. I mean they were . . . Probably because I was Iranian and female, I gravitated towards the most traditional literature, you know, one could gravitate towards. And so I ended up reading a lot of dead White men always. It was very unpopular in the ‘90s, particularly at a place like Sarah Lawrence College. But I always wanted to read, you know . . . you know the 19th century British writers. And then the American experimentalists and meta fiction writers. So I . . . And they often write about themselves, so they weren’t writing a lot about minority women. So I was always somewhat in their mindset. So I think that’s why as a child I was always writing about White versions of my father. It’s . . . And I’ve had to now make a conscious effort on the second novel to write about women, but it feels foreign to me somehow. That’s . . . that’s fascinating. Women I think are also more complicated and more loaded in a way. I’m able to go back to a slightly more blank palette with men, strangely. I don’t . . . I don’t even know what that means and why I think that. I’ll leave that to psychologists, I guess.
Recorded on: 1/18/08