Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review: Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

My high school aged daughter had to read this book this year for her English class. When she first brought the class syllabus home, I noticed that I had read most of her required reading myself and generally enjoyed it. This title, though, was one of the few I hadn't already read although I certainly owned it. So I made a point of pulling it off my shelf and reading it before my daughter did. Dumas' memoir about being Iranian in America, growing up as not one thing or another but a sort of hybrid who feels out of place is funny and entertaining but thoughtful and insightful as well.

Dumas' family emigrated to the US for her father's engineering job in the early 1970s, when very few people in the US had heard of the Middle Eastern country. Told in short, funny, self-contained chapters, Dumas captures the slightly out of kilter life of an immigrant and the way that the US perception of Iranians changed after the Iranian hostage crisis and the Iranian Revolution. She focuses on life within her family, how her parents adapted (or didn't) to their new home, the cultural misunderstandings, and the ways in which they maintained ties to their familiar culture even half a world away. Covering many years, from her childhood to young adulthood and her eventual marriage to a Frenchman, Dumas' brief chapters showcase her lovable and quirky family, the kindness and the suspicion she encountered as an Iranian, and the entertaining, oftentimes self-deprecating, results of culture clash.

This slight memoir is light, filled with a sense of humor, and is, as the title promises, truly funny. Dumas recounts her relatives' quirky foibles and the ways in which they try to adjust to American culture. She recounts her memories with love and her stories highlight a universality amongst human beings no matter which part of the world they hail from and where the wind takes them. She is forgiving of the ignorance of people about her homeland and the clueless way that some people treat immigrants. Many of the chapters offer brief glimpses into life in pre-revolutionary Iran as compared to life in the US and Dumas has managed to strike a nice balance between the good and positive in each place even as she acknowledges imperfections and prejudices, offering only brief nods to the politics of the day then and now. A warm, endearing, and affectionately written memoir, this is a delightful look at difference, ethnicity, and culture.

1 comment:

  1. I had to check Goodreads to see when I read it - 2007. I liked it :-) Nice review!


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