What role does food 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: Why does Xerxes serve his father Fruity Pebbles?
Khakpour: Well I wanted to at that moment give the most mundane edibles of American existence, right? For young people particularly, I wanted to create . . . Even though Xerxes has gotten his first apartment in New York, it might as well have just been a dorm. He had no real food. He had, you know, dry cereal, stale milk, and some odds and ends in the house. And for the father who was just visiting him for the first time in New York, it was a shock. You know in Iran and in Iranian households out here, food is major. And food is a celebration, and it’s always a feast. And you don’t . . . You know my parents were always horrified when they would hear of how I lived in the States; and how, you know . . . how I always had this scrappy, college-like existence. They would probably think the same today if they visited my apartment. But it’s so at odds with the sort of natural grandeur that Persian households try to instill. So I wanted . . . I think that that was sort of an easy moment for cultural reflection. You know I think it’s a lot of those mundane things, a lot of those small details that add up to the bigger conflicts. Those . . . those little moments where people see their differences that create greater and greater divides. And for the father and son in the novel, those differences ultimately reach a really devastating boiling point that looks irreparable.
Xerxes serves Fruity Pebbles to his visiting father, who is deeply offended by the offering.
Tech is rising and America's middle class is vanishing. Here's what to do.
- The rise of new technologies is making the United States more economically unequal, says Professor Ramesh Srinivasan. Americans should be pushing the current presidential candidates hard for answers on how they will bring economic security and how they will ensure that technological transitions benefit all of us.
- "We are at an inflection point when it comes to top-down control over very many different aspects of our lives through privatized corporate power over technology," says Srinivasan. Now is the time to debate solutions like basic income and worker-owned cooperatives.
- Concurrently, individuals should develop digital literacy and get educated on the potential solutions. Srinivasan recommends taking free online and open courses from universities like Stanford and MIT, and reading books and quality journalism on these issues.
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- He is keeping busy for a 103-year-old man, and keeping the world up to date on his indoor adventures with Facebook.
- His to-do list is impressive, but not so impressive it can't be used by most people.
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