It is the late 1970s and 11-year-old Zomorod “Cindy” Yousefzadeh accompanies her parents as they make their fourth work-related move to the United States from Iran. When they settle in Newport Beach, California, Cindy is determined to be more social, develop friends, and “fit in.” After a bumpy start, Cindy finds her niche, sporting mood rings and puka shell necklaces, and attending Girl Scouts. Protests in Iran, however, followed by the Islamic Revolution and the taking of American hostages shatter her family’s hopes for Iran’s future and raise their concerns for the safety and wellbeing of family and friends in Iran. Before long, they become targets of anti-Iranian sentiments and find their own safety in danger. As the hostage crisis ends, they are faced with the decision of whether or not to return to their beloved Iran.
Cindy narrates this insightful and humorous story in present tense and provides rich glimpses into the immigrant experience. Her struggle to discover her identity as she matures while balancing two different cultures and simultaneously finding friends, dealing with family issues, and overcoming racism is compelling. Details of the Iranian hostage crisis are woven into the story in meaningful ways that convey the complicated realities for Iranians in the United States in the 70s.
This book would work well in a text set focused on friendship and dealing with prejudice as an immigrant. Other books that could be included in the text set include Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O’Malley Cerra (2014) and Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury (1994).
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel is semi-autobiographical for author Firoozeh Dumas. She was born in Iran and moved between Iran and the United States several times while growing up. She was 13 years old and living in California at the time of the Iranian revolution. As in the book, her father lost his job and her mother became depressed. It was the kindness of others who saw and valued the commonalities of people from all cultural backgrounds that helped her through that difficult time, which she writes about in the book.
Prisca Martens, Towson University, Towson, MD
WOW Review, Volume IX, Issue 1 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/ix-1/