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Sons and Other Flammable Objects

A Novel

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 in making peace with our worlds. 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’ 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. Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a masterful tale of immigrant identity, assimilation, and the universal struggle of sons to define themselves in the shadow of their fathers; it is at once a comedy and tragedy, a family history and a modern coming-of-age story with a distinctly timeless resonance.


A 2007 California Book Award Winner (First Fiction)
A 2008 Dylan Thomas Prize longlist selection
A 2008 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing shortlist selection
A 2007 Chicago Tribune “Fall’s Best” selection

A New York Times “Editor’s Choice”

author praise

“What a book! By turns comic and tragic, wry and heartfelt, Sons and Other Flammable Objects deftly weaves the history of a single family into the history of an entire people, creating something startling and entirely new. Porochista Khakpour has my complete admiration.”
—Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

“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

“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

“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

“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

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