Thursday, October 9, 2008

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America

In her memoir, Funny in Farsi, author Firoozeh Dumas uses humor and candor to introduce her family to readers and describe the language and cultural difficulties that come with moving to a new country. Originally from Iran, Dumas moved to the United States at age seven. It was 1972, a time before many Americans had ever heard of Iran, giving the author a much different experience in her first years in California than perhaps is felt by Middle Easterners immigrating to the United States today.

Leaving politics out of her essays for the most part, Dumas is able to endear her family and her culture to readers. She also is able to help us see how the political climate in the Middle East has effected immigrants and American attitudes toward them.

Dumas also has a refreshing look at things I take for granted as both a Californian and an American. The essays from her younger years are filled with a child's sense of wonder and discovery, as well as mischievousness. For instance, when Dumas loses track of her family in Disneyland, she goes to the Lost and Found and waits for her parents to figure out that's where they should go to look for her. When they arrive she realizes her father will do just about anything for her because he's so glad to have not lost her forever, which she uses to her advantage to get all the goodies and balloons her penny-pinching father normally wouldn't allow.

I thought her descriptions of cultural differences were also very well done. At one point she describes her father's love of visiting Costco on "sample day" because of all of the free food he can get. Her father also insists on trying all of the latest boxed or frozen foods (despite the belly aches they get from it) because they are so different from what they would find in Iran.

Culture becomes a theme throughout the book as she grows older, spends time in France and eventually marries a Frenchman. As always, I loved reading about someone else's time in Paris. It always makes me feel better about my own experience because it confirms my belief that I'm not the only person ever to have a difficult time with Parisians.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. Dumas' writing style is fun and quick, and her descriptions of her family's quirks will take you back to your own teenage years.

For those of you in Sacramento, Dumas will be appearing at Sacramento State University on Wednesday, October 15th, at 7 p.m. for a discussion and book signing.

Also, she now has a second collection of essays out, entitled Laughing Without an Accent, if you're interested.

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