Debra's Reviews > Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
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really liked it
bookshelves: foodie-reads

I love reading memoirs. Dumas’ book is funny, but it is also bittersweet as she and her family try to continue their life in America during the fall of the Shah and the Iran hostage situation. She found humor in what I imagine were some dark days for her family.

But, if you can’t laugh at yourself (and your family), who can you laugh at? (I will refer to the author by her last name throughout this post, partially because it is easier to spell. Her first name caused her many problems in America and she was even once referred to as “Fritzy DumbAss.”)

As you can imagine, some of the humor comes from language and cultural challenges. This is especially true with her father, who prides himself on being an American expert but sometimes has some issues with the language--"Asking my father to ask the waitress the definition of “sloppy Joe” or Tater Tots” was no problem. His translations, however were highly suspect. Waitresses would spend several minutes responding to my father’s questions, and these responses, in turn, would be translated as “She doesn’t know.” Thanks to my father’s translations, we stayed away from hot dogs, catfish, and hush puppies, and no amount of caviar in the sea would have convinced us to try mud pie."

Even though dad’s translations might have kept them from eating some truly delicious Yankee food, the family was adventurous when it came to experiencing the flavors of their new home by attending many different California festivals: “We tasted garlic ice cream, date shakes, and cherry slushies” (17). She writes that for her family, “America was to be experienced through the taste buds” (24) despite her father’s conversations with waitresses.

You cannot fault this immigrant family’s willingness to immerse in American culture.

As they trudge through lots of “Americanized” food, the family never forgot their Persian roots. There are many references to traditional food.

Dumas lived through the the kindness of strangers during the San Francisco earthquake of 1989. Dumas and her new husband, Francois, were living in an apartment and she was home alone during the quake. Shaken up, she tries to call her parents and her estranged in-laws and carefully makes her way downstairs to a neighbor to use the phone. Her parents were blissfully unaware of the danger she was in. Her mother-in-law only asked if her Limoges china was safe.

I was struck by the the family china incident mentioned here. Dumas’ antique Limoges set had been given as a wedding gift by her estranged in-laws. After the earthquake, she and her husband donated it to a museum charity auction (thus becoming “major” donors).

She writes: "The Limoges set has brought us more joy in its absence than it ever did in our cupboards. 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." (160)

I cannot think of more precious or more valuable advice from a parent to a child.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
May 1, 2014 – Finished Reading
July 30, 2016 – Shelved
November 15, 2016 – Shelved as: foodie-reads

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