Illness Experiences and Racial Identity in Sickness: a Memoir

Tingting ZHOU


In the Iranian American writer Porochista Khakpour’s powerful memoir Sick: a Memoir, Khakpour’s racial identity plays an important part in her illness experiences. Different from traditional American autopathographies, Sick mixes Khakpour’s illness experiences and autobiographical experiences. The memoir is not only about the mysterious Lyme disease and its symptoms but about the feeling of alienation and homelessness and the trauma of being an outsider in America. Khakpour’s experiences of living with Lyme becomes a trope of her experiences of living in America as an racial other. In combining illness and racial experiences, Sick enriches the genre of autopathography which is mainly white and middle-class and provides a new perspective to observe illness in a multi-cultural context.


Illness experiences; Trauma; Racial experiences

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Hawkins, A. H. (1993). Reconstructing illness: a study in pathography. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.

Heing, B. (2018). World literature today. September-October.

Khakpour, P. (2018). Sick: a memoir. New York: Harper.

Tobin, J. B. (2018). Women’s review of books, 35(3). May/June.



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