Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

Firoozeh Dumas

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 0812968379

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

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cover to cover, trying to figure out what the stories were about. I always made sure to put them back in the exact order in which I had found them, for fear of losing the privilege of browsing in my uncle’s library. Years later, after we moved to America, my father bought me my own subscription to Reader’s Digest, an event that remains the high point of my life in junior high. Aunt Sedigeh and Uncle Abdullah now live near my parents in Southern California. Even though their condominium has only

getting his fifteen minutes of fame. Vendors started selling T-shirts and bumper stickers that said “Iranians Go Home” and “Wanted: Iranians, for Target Practice.” Crimes against Iranians increased. People would hear my mother’s thick accent and ask us, “Where are you from?” They weren’t looking for a recipe for stuffed grape leaves. Many Iranians suddenly became Turkish, Russian, or French. To add to my family’s collective anxiety, my father’s pension from Iran was cut off. The Iranian

friends back in Abadan. “We can’t possibly leave them out” became a regular refrain. I didn’t know half the people on the list. “Who are the Abbasis and why are we inviting them?” I wanted to know. “They invited us to their daughter’s wedding last year. Plus, they live in Australia. They won’t come.” They came, and they brought a niece with them. On a dozen occasions, invitations addressed to “Mr. and Mrs.” came back announcing that six would be attending. Since our wedding was taking place in

Good old Iranian or American qualities such as aiming high and striving despite difficulties have been replaced with everyone receiving a trophy for participating. But that’s not the only obstacle. In Iran, we celebrated the math geniuses, the ones with neat handwriting, the ones who tried to excel in school, the ones who spent a lot of time on their homework. They received prizes. Their names were in the newspaper. We applauded them and wished our children could be like them. Here, those kids

some form of exercise. My uncle decided to speed the weight-loss process by wearing his moon suit all day. He thought nothing of circling the block endlessly, leaving neighbors wondering whether perhaps he was looking for the mother ship. Dressed for a jaunt on Venus, he strolled to the supermarket, the hardware store, and everywhere else he needed to go. Unable to understand English, he had apparently forgotten the international meaning of stares as well. Kids at school asked me about the

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