Porochista Khakpour On Persian Curses

Question: What kinds of curses do you remember from your childhood?

Khakpour:    There are small things I can think of straight off the bat.  But for instance I remember growing up and my mother always saying, “Never cut your fingernails after dark.”  And to this day I probably have never cut my fingernails after dark.  And I thought about it and I researched this a little bit.  It doesn’t appear in my novel, but I was interested in why on earth do a lot of Iranians think that you can’t cut your fingernails after dark.  And the origin, I believe, of this superstition is it was in the Arab pre-electricity.  People would actually get hurt, you know, utilizing scissors and cutting their fingernails, or toe nails, or whatever in the dark.  Or with kerosene lamps or whatever they used.  I don’t know.  But it seemed to me that that was the reason.  But I love that.  I love that sort of folklore.  But there’s tons of stuff like that.  I grew up as a child completely neurotic because of all these things my parents would tell me – these ancient cultural voodoo that was always sort of present in our household.  And it made me very, very stressed out as a child.  How do you merge that with sort of modern living and trying to assimilate to this new world that you’re in?  It was very difficult for me.  You know I was very cognizant of learning English in the U.S.   And I was . . .  It was very harrowing for me because I was always trying to fit in and do it fast before anyone could notice a difference.  But you know the minute some kids would meet my parents . . .  You know the minute they entered the picture it seemed like they would just unravel my whole . . . my whole guise.  So I was always a little bit at odds with them.  I think that is definitely explored ad nauseum in the book.

Don't cut your fingernails at night.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

5 charts reveal key racial inequality gaps in the US

The inequalities impact everything from education to health.

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs

America is experiencing some of its most widespread civil unrest in years following the death of George Floyd.

Keep reading Show less

Ask an astronomer: What makes neutron stars so special?

Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller talks ISS and why NICER is so important.

Videos
  • Being outside of Earth's atmosphere while also being able to look down on the planet is both a challenge and a unique benefit for astronauts conducting important and innovative experiments aboard the International Space Station.
  • NASA astrophysicist Michelle Thaller explains why one such project, known as NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer), is "one of the most amazing discoveries of the last year."
  • Researchers used x-ray light data from NICER to map the surface of neutrons (the spinning remnants of dead stars 10-50 times the mass of our sun). Thaller explains how this data can be used to create a clock more accurate than any on Earth, as well as a GPS device that can be used anywhere in the galaxy.

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less