Why did you write from the male perspective?

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

Because Khakpour was very interested in what makes Muslim men tick, after the events on 9/11.

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