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Brown Album Reviews

Brown Album by Porochista Khakpour

Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity

Porochista Khakpour

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage
Publication date: 19 May 2020
ISBN: 9780525564713


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.

3 stars out of 5
20 Oct 2020

"The collection comprises perfectly crafted performances, slightly out-of-focus subjects, moments of unvarnished expression"

The new essay, which gives the book its title, is central to understanding Khakpour’s oblique offering. The collection comprises perfectly crafted performances, slightly out-of-focus subjects, moments of unvarnished expression. Generally, the writer is framed by the imagination of others. In “Thirteen Ways of Being an Immigrant” she recalls: “They call you American Express, that group of boys you slept with. You’re amazed they call you American”. In the final essay, however, she speaks without equivocation: “Let the record state that, during Trump’s America, I became broken”. The assertion casts a cool new light across the earlier essays, and the impulses behind them.


4 stars out of 5
Houman Barekat
22 May 2020

"In this compellingly candid set of autobiographical essays, the Iranian American author recalls ‘trying on and discarding selves’"

Khakpour writes in the highly subjective style popularised by the New Journalism of the 1960s and 70s and currently much in vogue – an influence acknowledged in the collection’s title, with its nod to Joan Didion’s White Album of 1979. This mode of writing – anecdotal, fragmentary, at times quasi-therapeutic – has its limitations. For a more conventional and scholarly survey of the book’s terrain, readers might prefer The Limits of Whiteness by the sociologist Neda Maghbouleh. But Khakpour’s reminiscences are compellingly candid, and yield some illuminating psychological insights. In one essay, she remembers being cajoled into riding a camel during a family visit to LA Zoo in 1986. Her father thought it would be a fun treat, but the young Khakpour was reluctant: acutely conscious that racist Americans called Middle Easterners “camel jockeys”, she was mortified at the the prospect of conforming to stereotype.