Saturday, February 26, 2011

March's Book

In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of this country beyond her father’s glowing memories of his graduate school years here. More family soon followed, and the clan has been here ever since.

Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who first sought riches on Bowling for Dollars and in Las Vegas, and later lost his job during the Iranian revolution; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.

In a series of deftly drawn scenes, we watch the family grapple with American English (hot dogs and hush puppies?—a complete mystery), American traditions (Thanksgiving turkey?—an even greater mystery, since it tastes like nothing), and American culture (Firoozeh’s parents laugh uproariously at Bob Hope on television, although they don’t get the jokes even when she translates them into Farsi).

Above all, this is an unforgettable story of identity, discovery, and the power of family love. It is a book that will leave us all laughing—without an accent.


Lauri said...

Fast, easy to read and funny...what more could you want in a book? Everyone in the book was easy to like and the book flowed from chapter to chapter well.
The addition of the final chapter was the best part of the book. It not only made me laugh but also wanting to read her second book. Thanks Jennifer.

Page 42 "In my large extended family, each member has a reputation. This reputation, carved in stone, is usually the result of a somewhat random act that for some unknown reason takes on a far greater meaning, and becomes the defining moment in a life."

Page 50 "...but Las Vegas was cheap and so was my father, so off we went."

Page 87 "It's not what we eat or don't eat that makes us good people; it's how we treat one another. As you grow older, you'll find that people of every religion think they're the best, but that's not true. There are good and bad people in every religion. Just because someone is Muslim, Jewish, or Christian doesn't mean a thing. You have to look and see what's in their hearts. That's the only thing that matters, and that's the only detail God cares about."

Candy said...

My favorite chapter was the last one, "If I Were a Rich Man." I already adored her father, but that sealed the deal. (I really like that ham-related quote Lauri already mentioned.) Her family overall is delightful.
Another favorite chapter was when she and her husband judge the beauty contest: "I tried to imagine how my parents would be contacted to claim our bodies. . . . It was a long night, during which my husband slept like a log" (179). Ha!
I occasionally found Dumas herself to be a tad bitter--more sardonic than funny--her humor based on a scorn of humanity in general.
Despite this, I found myself thinking that if I met her in person--and she wasn't straining to be witty and insightful--I would really like her. This was confirmed when reading the Afterward, where she seems more relaxed, and I liked her much better.
Overall, I did like the book, and would read others she wrote. I bet she'll improve with time--when she doesn't have such a chip on her shoulder, hopefully.

"Without my relatives, I am but a thread; together, we form a colorful and elaborate Persian carpet" (103).

And the final word from her father: "After his last trip, I asked him if it was hard to return to America, where he is far from wealth. 'But Firoozeh,' he said, 'I'm a rich man in America, too. I just don't have a lot of money'" (187).

Annell said...

I could not put this one down! I liked the stories, I liked the characters, I liked the history. It is funny and very heartfelt. Parts of this reminded me of Danny's family and I could definitely relate to. It's insightful and a very good, easy, and interesting read. To me, this is a great study of the different type of people we come in contact with every day. It's a great reminder to me of how we shouldn't be so quick to judge or hate and love others around us, despite their differences because this world would definitely be a boring place if everyone were the same. I'll definitely be reading the author's other book.

"Of course, we no longer own a set of china to pass down to our kids, but that's okay. Francois and I plan on giving our children something more valuable, the simple truth that the best way to go through life is to be a major donor of kindness. We'll tell them that it's possible to own a whole bunch of beautiful, valuable things and still be miserable. But sometimes just having a recipe for chocolate Bundt cake can make a person far, far happier." pg. 160

"Whenever a three or four day weekend rolled around, my father would happily announce, "We're going to Las Vegas?" I hated it, but Las Vegas was cheap and so was my father, so off we went." pg. 50

"I believe peace in the Middle East could be achieved if the various leaders held their discussions in front of a giant bowl of Persian ice cream, each leader with his own silver spoon. Political differences would melt with every mouthful." pg. 75

"Throughout his job ordeal, my father never complained. He remained an Iranian who loved his native country but who also believed in American ideals. He only sad how sad it was that people so easily hate an entire population simply because of the actions of a few. And what a waste it is to hate, he always said. What a waste." pg. 121

Annell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie :) said...

I liked the book overall. It seemed like each chapter was written separately and could have been a series of essays. There wasn't "rising action," "conflict," and "resolution," so it sometimes felt disjointed. But good read nonetheless. My favorite quote is one of Annell's with the Bundt cake.