What role does comedy play in your book?
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: What role does comedy play in your book?
Khakpour: A big role. I have a lot of humor in the novel – dark humor usually. It’s sort of part of who I am, and part of the literature that I’ve always loved. Humor is a way to cope with some of the heaviness of the novel. Humor was always my answer. It was my way of fitting in as a kid in elementary school, you know, and it being very obvious that I was a foreigner. I have an unpronounceable name. My parents were always overdressing me for school. I, you know . . . Early on I didn’t have a completely great grasp of the English language. And so my way of coping with that time period was to be kind of weird, and embrace that, and not completely be the class clown; but definitely have a huge sense of humor about my funny dresses, and my funny name, and you know and my big hair. And so I immediately became that sort of kid, and I always took a lot of pride in not completely fitting in. For instance I never had a slumber party experience. My parents never wanted me to spend the night at any other kid’s house. And you know I would always act like I didn’t want to. And I would make fun of these girls who would gather and, you know, read their issues of YM, and talk about boys and clothes. You know I would always beat them to . . . to the making fun and talk about how I thought they were such losers because they had these sort of girlie moments. Or my parents discouraged me from going to school dances and all that. Or I wasn’t allowed to go out on Friday nights or something like that. I would always act . . . I would always use that to my advantage and act like I never wanted to, and eventually I didn’t. Eventually I wanted to be at home on a Friday night reading and writing. So I became a bit of an antisocial, iconoclastic character more and more as I grew older. And I began to embrace that, and humor just became part of that package. And so the novel is definitely punctuated with laughter – usually the self-deprecating sort, which is most close to me I think.
A sense of humor was always Khakpour's best defense.
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