Funny in Farsi

This new Readers Circle edition includes a reading group guide and a conversation between Firoozeh Dumas and Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner.” 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.

One thought on “Funny in Farsi

  1. Johnson & West says:

    Funny in Farsi is a pleasant read that tells the story of a family of Iranian immigrants to the United States through a series of witty vignettes. Firoozeh Dumas’s book reads like David Sedaris for young adults, with each chapter being a distinct episode about the misadventures of one or more of a revolving cast of family members, centered primarily on the author’s ever-animated father. What I love about the book, though, is that while each story is distinctly about the cultural dissonance experienced by Iranian immigrants, the humor doesn’t feel stereotypical or racist at all. This is not a book about backward immigrants making fools of themselves in America. Instead, it is a collection of stories by a keen observer who writes her family with a sense of loving embarrassment and portrays their follies in an authentic, cheerful way, like a friend telling stories around a dinner table. Sprinkled throughout the book are ambivalent, wry observations about American culture – particularly consumer culture – that walk a fine line between being enthusiastic and being critical. Although it ends with an fairly saccharine sentiment about the American dream, Funny in Farsi is consistent in its sincerity, which makes it both enjoyable and, at times, revealing, holding a mirror up to society and pushing readers to appreciate both the differences and similarities that exist between families from different cultures.
    I really enjoyed reading this book, Craig, and for all the reasons you mention. The short vignettes make for great read that is sprinkled with humor while also projecting a bit of critical reflection that many adolescents would recognize in respect to their own families. With distinct nuances that reflect both familiarity and difference, Dumas puts into relief the experience of learning to embrace a new place and culture while holding lovingly to home culture. The book really does present as stories told to friends, friends who would both laugh with understanding, and take pride in their cultural differences. Dumas created a great balance in storytelling that brings both outsiders and insiders of her home culture into the circle, and both are welcome.

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