Brown Album
*A Vintage Original*From the much-acclaimed novelist and essayist, a beautifully rendered, poignant collection of personal essays, chronicling immigrant and Iranian-American life in our contemporary moment.Novelist Porochista Khakpour's family moved to Los Angeles after fleeing the Iranian Revolution, giving up their successes only to be greeted by an alienating culture. Growing up as an immigrant in America means that one has to make one's way through a confusing tangle of conflicting cultures and expectations. And Porochista is pulled between the glitzy culture of Tehrangeles, an enclave of wealthy Iranians and Persians in LA, her own family's modest life and culture, and becoming an assimilated American. Porochista rebels--she bleaches her hair and flees to the East Coast, where she finds her community: other people writing and thinking at the fringes. But, 9/11 happens and with horror, Porochista watches from her apartment window as the towers fall. Extremism and fear of the Middle East rises in the aftermath and then again with the election of Donald Trump. Porochista is forced to finally grapple with what it means to be Middle-Eastern and Iranian, an immigrant, and a refugee in our country today. Brown Album is a stirring collection of essays, at times humorous and at times profound, drawn from more than a decade of Porochista's work and with new material included. Altogether, it reveals the tolls that immigrant life in this country can take on a person and the joys that life can give.

Brown Album Details

TitleBrown Album
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 19th, 2020
PublisherVintage
ISBN-139780525564713
Rating
GenreWriting, Essays, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Audiobook, Contemporary

Brown Album Review

  • Fatemeh
    January 1, 1970
    A series of memories, some specific to Khakpour, many familiar to “brown” American kids of all stripes. A great collection of essays that resonated deeply with me.
  • T
    January 1, 1970
    Not sure how to feel about this collection of essays. I’ve read Khakpour’s novels (meh) and memoir (in which an important issue — women being heard and taken seriously by medical professionals — is buried by the overwhelming evidence of Khakpour being an unreliable historian). I’ve been to one of her book readings, one that was mainly attended by her least favorite demographic (white people), where I waited around awkwardly to ask her to sign my book. She asked me if i was Iranian (yes...well, I Not sure how to feel about this collection of essays. I’ve read Khakpour’s novels (meh) and memoir (in which an important issue — women being heard and taken seriously by medical professionals — is buried by the overwhelming evidence of Khakpour being an unreliable historian). I’ve been to one of her book readings, one that was mainly attended by her least favorite demographic (white people), where I waited around awkwardly to ask her to sign my book. She asked me if i was Iranian (yes...well, Iranian-American), which delighted me, as I’m not often recognized as belonging to this group of people. I want to like Khakpour’s work because she reminds me of my older sister. They’re the same age, both born in Iran and raised in California. They both went through a period of rejecting their heritage, and becoming something else — if not blonde and all-American, then something else altogether. They both have fraught relationships with their Iranian immigrant parents. This is probably why I’m drawn to Khakpour’s work, and why why I wanted to read this book. Khakpour writes about her childhood, and trying to find herself and forge an identity as a writer, and as a New Yorker, in this essay collection. There’s a point in this collection where Khakpour transitions from desperately wanting to be anything BUT Iranian, to claiming identities that she doesn’t necessarily have grounds to claim, or that she doesn’t really explore. The person who was raised secular and experiments with drugs and alcohol suddenly identifies as Muslim. The person who co-opts aspects of hip hop culture and describes her father as “dark” and “resembling Barack Obama” (sorry...what?) attempts to claim Afro-Iranian ancestry without really explaining it, as if this validates the things she does or says . She tells us that she’s queer, but we only hear about her boyfriends, reminiscent of her memoir, where she writes about boyfriend after boyfriend before throwing out the “queer” identifier toward the end of the book. She’s very critical of “white people” and their various micro (and macro) aggressions targeted at her, but she doesn’t really interrogate her own behavior, and she certainly doesn’t consider her privilege as a white-passing individual.There are some intriguing bits in this collection, like the essay about Tehrangeles, and the two ends of the spectrum that is the Iranian diaspora in California. She dances around the issues of race and racism in Iran and amongst Iranians in diaspora, but never really dives into them. There are also a lot of questionable bits, like the parts where she essentially brushes off all of her students because they’re apparently all white, instead of using the opportunity to teach them. I think Khakpour needs to do a bit more introspection, instead of attributing every less than stellar interaction she has to the raging racism of the white people around her.
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  • Shaelene (aGirlWithBookss)
    January 1, 1970
    In Brown Album, Khakpour explores what it is to be an Iranian Muslim in America, and her feelings struggling with her identity. This essay collection will make you laugh & cry, and become completely absorbed in this writer's fascinating and entertaining adventures. Being a white woman, I can only speak on so much of this. Having read Sick by Khakpour and relating to it so much, I knew going into Brown Album I wasn’t going to relate to it in the same way, but what kept bringing me back was the wr In Brown Album, Khakpour explores what it is to be an Iranian Muslim in America, and her feelings struggling with her identity. This essay collection will make you laugh & cry, and become completely absorbed in this writer's fascinating and entertaining adventures. Being a white woman, I can only speak on so much of this. Having read Sick by Khakpour and relating to it so much, I knew going into Brown Album I wasn’t going to relate to it in the same way, but what kept bringing me back was the writing and storytelling. I so much enjoyed the stories Khakpour has to tell, especially about her family- I will never get the image of Khakpour and her mother eating sheep testicles and brain matter out of my head! I think this is a book that everyone can take away a little something from. Khakpour’s voice is essential in a time when American’s relations with the Middle East are so delicate, in a time when the Muslim no-fly ban is reality.4 stars.***ARC provided by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Natalie (CuriousReader)
    January 1, 1970
    First published on my blog: https://curiousreaderr.wordpress.com/...Brown Album collects Porochista Khakpour’s essays exploring identity and expression, growing up, creative writing and loving stories, America and 9/11, and mental health, among myriad of things. She opens the book with positioning herself as an Iranian-American writer, having unwittingly become a kind of representative of Iranians in America or in the West generally, particularly as immigrants and within a setting where these tw First published on my blog: https://curiousreaderr.wordpress.com/...Brown Album collects Porochista Khakpour’s essays exploring identity and expression, growing up, creative writing and loving stories, America and 9/11, and mental health, among myriad of things. She opens the book with positioning herself as an Iranian-American writer, having unwittingly become a kind of representative of Iranians in America or in the West generally, particularly as immigrants and within a setting where these two identities have long been at odds with one another. Being asked to write about various topics related to Iranian-American lives and stories, she’d found herself “a spokesperson of my people“. This essay collection then is in great part dealing with this identity split – Iran and America having a rocky history, hardly less so after 9/11, explaining perhaps some of the authors obsession with this event in history and trying to grapple with its shockwaves many years ahead in her fiction writing. Khakpour describes herself as a novelist but I thought she excelled as an essayist – raising questions of importance without preaching, through the grounded nature of weaving in personal experiences with rawness and allowing for sharp introspections and honest ambiguities; her story-telling really resonated with me on a personal level as a part-Iranian reader but equally allowed me to reflect on things I hadn’t heard anyone questioning before.In one of the earliest essays she attempts to confront the split of Iran’s identity as part of a dreamscape “Persia”, with rich art and history; in contrast to the country’s bleak present and conflicted relationship within and outside its national boundaries. “In the beginning there was the word… Persian“. Its connotations of all that is good about a country in a single word, as a strategic distancing from that four-letter name suggesting hostage crisis, terrorists, islamists, suspicion. As much as she questions some of the country’s identity crisis, she shares some of her personal journey in figuring out who she was – as an immigrant of two identities especially as she had few memories of Iran, having moved as a three year old – she describes some of the mixed feelings she has of her own legacy, how she relates to her parents’ background, political stance, attitude towards their new homeland, and where they belong. Her story of coming of age is increasingly complicated with some health issues that shapes many of her life decisions and paths taken. She finds a particular sense of purpose and connection through books and story-telling, she shares this passion through some of her journey into becoming a teacher of creative writing and a published author.I thought this was a wonderful book that really illustrates on the one hand the wider experience of being an immigrant or child of immigrants stuck in between two cultures and identities – never quite belonging to either; as well as the more specific relationship she has with her birth country – a relationship that she continues to make sense of through the writing of this book. A wonderful, thoughtful and in my opinion, highly eye-opening book about some of the experiences of someone both being able to “pass” and being judged as “other” in the country they have made their own. “I accepted it [America] and never, until much later, considered that it might not accept me”.
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  • Anahita
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book more than I expected I would. Khakpour’s writer’s voice reels you in from the very beginning, and her personal anecdotes didn’t feel tired or repetitive like a lot of writing about Iranian-America and the diaspora tends to feel. I especially enjoyed these essays/chapters (but I recommend the whole thing): “Revolution Days”, “An Iranian in Mississippi”, “Secret Muslims in the New Year”, “A Muslim-American in Indonesia”, “How to Write Iranian America”, and the titular final piece I loved this book more than I expected I would. Khakpour’s writer’s voice reels you in from the very beginning, and her personal anecdotes didn’t feel tired or repetitive like a lot of writing about Iranian-America and the diaspora tends to feel. I especially enjoyed these essays/chapters (but I recommend the whole thing): “Revolution Days”, “An Iranian in Mississippi”, “Secret Muslims in the New Year”, “A Muslim-American in Indonesia”, “How to Write Iranian America”, and the titular final piece “Brown Album”.
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  • Ilana
    January 1, 1970
    ´When Iranians write you and say you are not Iranian enough for them, thank them, and when others say you are too Iranian for them, thank them too´.The Essays on Exile and Identity included in the Brown Album recently published by Porochista Khakpour are an interesting genuine journey of coming at terms with a constantly changing perception and acceptance of identity. Being other in America - and elsewhere - requires a long travail that involves some risks: your assigned group may not accept the ´When Iranians write you and say you are not Iranian enough for them, thank them, and when others say you are too Iranian for them, thank them too´.The Essays on Exile and Identity included in the Brown Album recently published by Porochista Khakpour are an interesting genuine journey of coming at terms with a constantly changing perception and acceptance of identity. Being other in America - and elsewhere - requires a long travail that involves some risks: your assigned group may not accept the final results, you may not be happy with the roles assigned, the majority would have different expectations - culturally, gender-based, economically - from you as inherently associated with your group - ethnic, cultural, other. ´I was brown, bisexual, from a Muslim background, of the dreaded Middle East, of the even more reviled Iran, always poor from parents who were originally not poor and then had become very poor´, a daily life within so many margins.Like her memoir of living with chronical illness, Sick, I could not easily put down the The Brown Album. First, there is the constant exploration of a specific identity in the making, against all odds and branding associated, especially in the post 9/11 America. On the other hand, this unique story has to do with an everyday experience many of those dislocated for various reasons from their country of birth may resent at a certain point. Of course, some ethnic groups are more demanding than the others, and some countries are more or less oblivious to the identity appropriation - religious, linguistic and/or cultural. Khakpour was born in Tehran, in a family belonging to ´academic aristocracy´ - her father was involved in the development of the atomic program and her great uncle is Akbar Etemad, considered as the father of Iran´s nuclear program. Forced by the post-revolutionary Iran political circumstances to leave the country, her family considered for a long while the American journey as temporarily. The life in America is a reverse of fate and social status, as they do not belong to the so-called Therangels based in the rich part of LA. On one side, the glamorous Iranians: ´Here all the base materialism purged by the Islamists could upchuck ebulliently like a Disney-lit confetti-bomb blitz. Thbey were safe´. On the other side, her family: ´Old Iranian aristocrats stuffed into a tiny crummy suburban apartment with nothing to show of their pedigree but the insanity of those who once had everything and were forced to abandon it all, almost overnight´. Stories that are often replicated in different languages and cultures, at least for the first generation of immigrants. Khakpour´s first escape and the beginning of a new cycle of identity redesign is once she is leaving for NYC to study creative writing at Sarah Lawrence, an experice she describes as: ´To me, I thought it could be a place where I could pile on identities as if they were pizza toppings, cheap and fast and easily pickled off, but hopefully so amply loaded that who I actually was could be, for once, truly obscured´. In the end, she will be fully at home in the NYC nightclubs: ´Electronic music and its physical incarnation, the rave, was a tempting and great equalizer´. Porochista Khapour journey of defining herself is a courageous attempt to deny general lines and look for those specific descriptions that fit individual stories. We may move within defined limits and cultural expectations, but what about taking the courage of defining ourselves first as individuals described through genuine features than based on general categories? Such an approach is a matter of psychological comfort that is not easy but it´s almost an intellectual obligation.After the two memoirs, I am looking forward to read the novels Khakpour wrote, including her incoming one dedicated to Tehrangels. I love her courage and her intellectual vibe very much.Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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  • Namrata Poddar
    January 1, 1970
    Today’s pick for #AAPIHeritageMonth 2020: Porochista Khakpour’s just released essay collection, “Brown Album.” This is a book of our times, of what it means to grow up Iranian- & Muslim American in Trump’s America. While I’ve read several books centering what it means to grow up “hyphenated” in the US, the strength of this book for me is Khakpour’s witty narrative voice and the range of topics through which it talks of her brown community. Latter include fashion, colorism, publishing within a th Today’s pick for #AAPIHeritageMonth 2020: Porochista Khakpour’s just released essay collection, “Brown Album.” This is a book of our times, of what it means to grow up Iranian- & Muslim American in Trump’s America. While I’ve read several books centering what it means to grow up “hyphenated” in the US, the strength of this book for me is Khakpour’s witty narrative voice and the range of topics through which it talks of her brown community. Latter include fashion, colorism, publishing within a theater of literary diversity, growing up poor in Los Angeles vs a wealthy Tehrangeles, being the difficult/woke daughter, a diagnosis with Lyme and a non-recognition with Joan Didion’s work. Just as much I love how the title essay confronts race in necessary ways including brown folks who can pass as white and what that means in America—so pertinent these days, especially with the “news” and #BlackLivesMatter as a movement..With my skin color and hybrid (Indo/Brit/Bom/town/what have you) accent, I pass neither as white nor an American but as an American of North Indian descent, I’m aware of the privilege of my light-er skin tone in both South Asia & the West. Hope more brown writers will continue where Khakpour ends—an honest discussion on colorism, passing, race and “wokeness”—long overdue this convo, I think.More on the book in our recent interview at Kweli journal: http://www.kwelijournal.org/interview...
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  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    This was downright amazing. And humbling. I listened to an author event with Khakpour the other night while I was reading this. I can't remember her exact quote, but she was talking about obnoxious questions at readings and mentioned that they typically come from white women. Well, reading this made it clear to me that I'm one of those obnoxious white women. This book should be required reading; it is a full education for those of us who are trying to overcome prejudices that we were raised with This was downright amazing. And humbling. I listened to an author event with Khakpour the other night while I was reading this. I can't remember her exact quote, but she was talking about obnoxious questions at readings and mentioned that they typically come from white women. Well, reading this made it clear to me that I'm one of those obnoxious white women. This book should be required reading; it is a full education for those of us who are trying to overcome prejudices that we were raised with and be a little bit more sensitive to identity and belonging. And it will maybe teach me to ask fewer stupid questions. I would love to be taught by Khakpour; she challenged me in ways I needed, but struggle to find opportunities for. Again, she would probably hate that, but I applaud her for her never-ending service in telling her stories.Please, read this! I'm planning on buying a copy so I can highlight and revisit it and hopefully, continue to learn to be a better person.
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  • Hannah Krueger
    January 1, 1970
    This is a wonderfully written, deeply raw essay collection. Porochista is very honest about her experience as an immigrant and her feeling of being an exile both from her home country, her immigrant community, and America in general. Yes, 9/11 and Trump’s election does play into these essays heavily. I like that she isn’t afraid to end the book with the essay that is probably the most raw, honest, and angry of all of these, and that it doesn’t end on an upbeat note. Definitely pick this up when This is a wonderfully written, deeply raw essay collection. Porochista is very honest about her experience as an immigrant and her feeling of being an exile both from her home country, her immigrant community, and America in general. Yes, 9/11 and Trump’s election does play into these essays heavily. I like that she isn’t afraid to end the book with the essay that is probably the most raw, honest, and angry of all of these, and that it doesn’t end on an upbeat note. Definitely pick this up when it comes out.
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  • Brooke
    January 1, 1970
    Having felt like I got to know Porochista Khakpour through reading her bestselling memoir Sick, I was glad to gain a deeper understanding of the writer through her most recent work Brown Album. This narrative explores Khakpour’s earlier years and young adulthood as an immigrant to the United States after her family fleeing the Iranian Revolution. It’s a fascinating and engaging and sometimes necessarily biting exploration on identity and culture.Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publ Having felt like I got to know Porochista Khakpour through reading her bestselling memoir Sick, I was glad to gain a deeper understanding of the writer through her most recent work Brown Album. This narrative explores Khakpour’s earlier years and young adulthood as an immigrant to the United States after her family fleeing the Iranian Revolution. It’s a fascinating and engaging and sometimes necessarily biting exploration on identity and culture.Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • Maggie
    January 1, 1970
    How on earth this grifter received another book deal is beyond me. Her last books about her trials and tribulations and her thousands of undiagnosed and diagnosed maladies is astounding. Her writing about Lyme disease in her memoir SICK (the sooper dooper kind that can never be diagnosed or treated) was horrendous in that she has been able to continue making a living doing what she does, which is grifting. AVOID THIS AUTHOR.
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  • Cristie Underwood
    January 1, 1970
    The author wrote a raw and personal account of what it was like to be a teenage immigrant. On top of the normal insecurities one experiences as a teen, the author had to deal with feelings of being different than their peers. I appreciated the author not sugarcoating her experiences, as it was important to me as a reader to have the good and the bad highlighted.
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  • Anita
    January 1, 1970
    highly recommend this searing, impassioned, and absorbing collection of literary essays that probe different aspects of Iranian-American experience from revolution to 9/11 to William Faulkner. Khakpour writes in a thrilling way - her voice is unusually direct and honest so that it feels like you're plunging into a vein - and she narrates her own collection beautifully in the audiobook version.
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  • Erika Juarez
    January 1, 1970
    Incredible read. As a Latina it is amazing to see how many of us, people of color, first gens share similar experiences and perspectives.
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