Excerpt from Sick by Porochista Khakpour, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Sick

A Memoir

by Porochista Khakpour

Sick by Porochista Khakpour X
Sick by Porochista Khakpour
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Print Excerpt

ON THE WRONG BODY

I have never been comfortable in my own body. Rather, I've felt my whole life that I was born in the wrong body. A slight woman, femme in appearance, olive skin that has varied from dark to light, thick black curly hair, large eyes, hands and feet too big, of somewhat more than average height and somewhat less than average weight—I've tried my whole life to understand what it is that seems off to me. It's deeper than gender and sexuality, more complicated than just surface appearances. Sometimes the dysmorphia I experience in my body feels purely psychological and other times it feels like something weirder. As a child, I thought of myself as a ghost, an essence at best who'd entered some incorrect form. As I grew older, I accepted it as "otherness," a feature of Americanness even. But every room I walk into I still quickly assign myself to outsider status, though it seems not everyone can see this. Many have in fact called my looks conventional, normal, even "good." I've accepted it while also feeling like I've deceived them.

I've looked for answers from my first few years on this earth, early PTSD upon PTSD, marked by revolution and then war and then refugee years, a person without a home. Could that have caused it? Was displacement of the body literally causing a feeling of displacement in the body?

Only decades later did I confront something that may have been there the whole time: illness, or some failure of the physical body due to something outside of me, that I did not create, that my parents did not create. Illness taught me that something was wrong, more wrong than being born or living in the wrong place. My body never felt at ease; it was perhaps battling something before I knew it was. It was trying to get me out of something I could not imagine.

At some point, with chronic illness and disability, I grew to feel at home. My body was wrong, and through data, we could prove that.

Because my illness at this stage has no cure, I can forever own this discomfort of the body. I can always say this was all a mistake. To find a home in my body is to tell a story that doesn't exist. I am a foreigner, but in ways that go much deeper than I thought, under the epidermis and into the blood cells. I have started to consider that I will never be at home, perhaps not even in death.

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From the book:Sick by Porochista Khakpour. Copyright © 2018 by Porochista Khakpour. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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