Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Finalist for the PEN/USA Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and the Audie Award in Biography/Memoir
This Random House Reader’s Circle edition includes a reading group guide and a conversation between Firoozeh Dumas and Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner!
“Remarkable . . . told with wry humor shorn of sentimentality . . . In the end, what sticks with the reader is an exuberant immigrant embrace of America.”—San Francisco Chronicle
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.
Praise for Funny in Farsi
“Heartfelt and hilarious—in any language.”—Glamour
“A joyful success.”—Newsday
“What’s charming beyond the humor of this memoir is that it remains affectionate even in the weakest, most tenuous moments for the culture. It’s the brilliance of true sophistication at work.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Often hilarious, always interesting . . . Like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this book describes with humor the intersection and overlapping of two cultures.”—The Providence Journal
“A humorous and introspective chronicle of a life filled with love—of family, country, and heritage.”—Jimmy Carter
“Delightfully refreshing.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[Funny in Farsi] brings us closer to discovering what it means to be an American.”—San Jose Mercury News
But like every good fantasy, this one lasted about thirty seconds. That’s when François told me that this romantic getaway was in India. I tried to conceal my shock, but for me, “India” and “honeymoon” just didn’t belong in the same sentence. As much as I love Indian music, literature, and food, I had never felt the need to go there on my honeymoon. I feel about India the way I feel while watching those Jacques Cousteau adventures where the divers explore undersea caves, flashing their lights in
borders. During his graduate years in America, my father had been deprived of his beloved Persian food—no steaming platters of saffron-infused rice, no tender chicken kebobs, no marinated lamb shanks with eggplant stew. Exhibiting the survival instinct of adaptation, he had developed a taste for cafeteria food, in particular Jell-O and ham. After his return to Iran and subsequent marriage, he had convinced my mother to make Jell-O on a fairly regular basis. I liked the wiggly stuff, but I
her. Uncle Abdullah is a translator, a job that allows him to surround himself with his beloved words. His passions, however, have broadened to include computers, which he discovered when he was well into his seventies. This means that whenever my husband, the software engineer, visits Southern California, he spends hours with Abdullah, trying to retrieve lost and deleted files. “I don’t know how it happened,” my uncle always says. My husband reminds him, “When the computer asks, ‘Are you sure
remember, although we do recall the ensuing scrambles to the drugstore for Rolaids. Because we were new to this country, we were impressed not just by the big attractions but also by the little things—smiling employees, clean bathrooms, and clear signage. Our ability to be impressed by the large selection of key chains at the souvenir shops guaranteed that every place we saw delighted us. There was, however, one attraction that stood apart, one whose sweatshirts we wore with pride, one that
normally do not read loved reading Funny in Farsi. That makes my day every time. Adult readers tend to invite me to their home. I get a lot of “If you are ever in the Saint Louis area, our spare bedroom is yours!” It’s very, very sweet. KH: What are you working on now? FD: I just wrote a piece for the New York Times humor section, and I’ve been editing a book for UC Berkeley’s International House about the effects of September 11 on ten individuals. Truth is, I am itching to write my next