The Essay Will Feel Like It’s Killing You

Porochista Khakpour’s experiences as an immigrant overlap with mine. For years people say ‘write what you know’ but really mean ‘but not too much to be too ethnic.’ Besides hitting the tender parts of my experiences through her’s, I love this structure and narration used in this piece. It unfolds with a novelist’s hand as ‘write what you know’ turns into something a writer can own.

Longreads

At Catapult, Porochista Khakpour reflects on her desire to write — about anything other than being Iranian-America. Deeply conflicted about speaking from her perspective as an Iranian-American, she says, “Remind yourself that when the performance is honest two things happen: The essay will feel like it’s killing you and the ending will not be what you thought it might be. Learn to respect more than resent those parallel planes of living and the rendering of living.”

Begin by writing about anything else. Go to the public library in your Los Angeles suburb and ask for all the great books people in New York City read, please. Wonder if the reference librarian knows a living writer and ask her what would a living writer read—and an American one, please. When she realizes you are still single digits and asks, Where are your parents, young lady? don’t answer…

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