Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pg. 99: "Sons and Other Flammable Objects"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Porochista Khakpour's Sons and Other Flammable Objects.

About the book, from the publisher's website:

A masterful tale of immigrant identity, assimilation, and the universal struggle of sons to define themselves in the shadow of their fathers

With rolling storytelling cadences and wry wit that recall Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters, Porochista Khakpour, a young writer who emigrated to California from Tehran at age three, has delivered an extraordinary debut that marks her as a major and outrageously gifted new voice. Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a unique and powerful first novel, at once a comedy and a tragedy, a family history and a modern coming-of-age story with a distinctly timeless resonance.

Growing up, Xerxes Adam is painfully aware that he is different — with an understanding of his Iranian heritage that vacillates from typical teenage embarrassment to something so tragic it can barely be spoken. His father, Darius, dwells obsessively on his sense of exile, and fantasizes about a nonexistent daughter he can relate to better than his living son; Xerxes’s mother changes her name and tries to make friends; but neither of them offers their son anything he can actually use to make sense of the terrifying, violent last moments in a homeland he barely remembers. As he grows into manhood and moves to New York, his major goal in life is to completely separate from his parents, but when he meets a beautiful half-Iranian girl on the roof of his building after New York’s own terrifying and violent catastrophe strikes, it seems Iran will not let Xerxes go.

A wry and haunting first novel from a fresh Iranian-American writer, Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a sweeping, lyrical tale of suffering, redemption, and the role of memory and inheritance making peace with our worlds.
Among the praise for Sons and Other Flammable Objects:
“Khakpour builds her luminously intelligent debut around the travails of an Iranian-American family caught in the feverish and paranoid currents immediately after 9/11.... Khakpour is an elegant writer, and she imparts a perfect sense of the ironies of being Persian in America.”
Publishers Weekly

Sons and Other Flammable Objects is one of those rare novels that makes you laugh and at the same time breaks your heart. It is a brilliant, insightful, and original portrait of an Iranian-American family, mother, father, son, all struggling, often crazily, to belong, to find meaning in their new home in America, to assert their identities. All the characters are memorable, lingering with you long after you finish the last page.”
—Nahid Rachlin, author of Persian Girls and Jumping Over Fire

“Like the young Philip Roth, Porochista Khakpour uses lashing, dark humor tinged with deep melancholy to paint a wonderfully twisted portrait of family life. Xerxes Adam, the ‘son’ of the title, is a protagonist for our times: repulsed by his father and alienated from his motherland, he hides from his origins in the ashes of post-9/11 New York. This is a novel of searing intelligence.”
—Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia

“Hypnotic, kaleidoscopic, gorgeous and mad, this novel is a brilliant and astonishing debut. And the story it tells is the best kind of story — where comedy and tragedy weave together mysteriously and yet organically, like a shifting in the play of light, like life itself.”
—Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir! and I Love You More Than You Know
“Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a marvelous novel: witty, wise, continually surprising, continually inventive, exuberant, heartbreaking. It resists the easy categories of immigrant lit, family saga, first novel — because it is, first and foremost, a delightful, generous work of literary art.”
—Alice McDermott, author of Charming Billy

“Khakpour displays a barbed, appealing sensibility and a trenchant wit”

“While there is no shortage of fiction that deals with the subjects of racial and cultural identity, Khakpour’s first novel refuses to oversimplify these issues fro the sake of a smoother narrative. An incredibly complex book, it acknowledges that navigating the demands of multiple cultures is anything but a tidy process.”
—Chris Pusateri, Library Journal
"Khakpour explores ethnicity, nationalism, and post-9/11 fear — well-worn themes that are far less compelling than the exuberant originality of her style. The characters burst from the page in fiery exchanges, while their chaotic inner lives are conveyed with witty precision; a simple parting comment is accompanied by “a definite wink, a wink or maybe a squint, but a smile, possibly a grimace, more than a smile.” Khakpour’s comic sense of familial tensions — particularly father-son enmity — is infectious...."
The New Yorker
Read an excerpt from Sons and Other Flammable Objects at the official book website, and visit Porochista Khakpour's website.

Porochista Khakpour was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1978. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the Johns Hopkins University writing seminars MA program. Her writing has appeared in the Chicago Reader, The Village Voice,, Paper, Nylon, Gear, Alef, Bidoun, and, among other publications.

The Page 99 Test: Sons and Other Flammable Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue