November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

In Porochista Khakpour’s collection of essays, Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity, she delves into what it means to be Iranian, Middle Eastern, an immigrant, a woman and yes, Brown, in America. This, she writes, is “a testament to the greatest and worst experience of my life: being a spokesperson for my people, a role I never dreamed of and never asked for. This is my pigeonhole, and this is my legacy.” Drawing on her experiences growing up in Los Angeles after her family fled the Iranian Revolution, Khakpour uses sharp observations and biting wit to examine what is lost and what is gained when one is perpetually viewed as “the other.” In doing so, she gives brilliant insight into the country she now calls home, and sets a new standard for the personal essay genre.

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