Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity

Vintage. May 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780525564713. pap. $16. LIT
In this new collection of essays, Khakpour (Sick: A Memoir) writes of rises and falls in patterns through career successes and emotional defeats. The pieces wrestle with ideas and inner conflicts, but they also tell candid stories about immigration, illness, whiteness, and the writer’s life. In reflecting on her long path to becoming a published author, Khakpour recalls, “It took me a decade to realize that the only truths worth anything in the end were those very details that, in resisting narrative, told the real story.” In pieces that standout with numbered paragraphs, Khakpour writes to another young writer, or to her abstracted self. She also divulges resentments and insecurities, and even includes a forbidden essay, one that has never before been published. Throughout, she documents her survival of white America as a Iranian American; yet, Khakpour seems to ask on every page: Is this all survival is?
VERDICT Emotions of sorrow, anger, and anxiety loom large in Khakpour’s inner and outer experiences in America, but the humor in her reflections keep this book immune from wallowing. A triumphant entry in the personal essay canon.
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