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That Kind of Sleep: Essays and poems

Susan Atefat Peckham, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


My writing is deeply informed by a multi-cultural perspective, and the poetry and nonfiction which I am writing now is closest to the genre of lyric and memoir, respectively. Both collections, about place and displacement, evolve out of my experience as an Iranian American. I think of “place” as both physical surrounding and the psychological spaces in which we live our lives once we are displaced from the physical moment. Writers continually balance what they remember, the stories they are told, and those they choose to tell. The best prose and poetry emerges between craft and experience and, as Tim O'Brien says, “at the intersection of past and present.” My writing attempts to make sense of an international (American, Swiss, French, Iranian), multilingual childhood, to investigate who I am and where I come from and how the two are inextricably bound—“make sense” because writing one's life and place requires seizing and reexperiencing moments of truth, an active and conscious re-placement. As writers, we “make” insight rather than happen on it. ^ This collection spans my childhood and early adulthood, when I lived in the United States, Europe, and Iran. Because I lived in such diverse places and at an inflammatory time, political events often shaped my family life (we were affected, for example, by the 1970s pre- and post-revolutionary Iran, and the 1980s epidemic of Middle Eastern terrorist activity in Europe, etc.). I was born first generation American to Iranian immigrant parents in New York City where my father worked for the United Nations. I lived most of my childhood and adolescence in Europe (France and Switzerland) with frequent stops in Iran, and a period of two years back in upstate New Jersey. The themes I am obsessed by in these essays and poems include family, heritage, racism, discovery of self, attachment to place, rootlessness, and the desire to belong somewhere—anywhere. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Middle Eastern|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Atefat Peckham, Susan, "That Kind of Sleep: Essays and poems" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9942111.