Monday, October 15, 2012

Funny in Farsi: Comic Tales of our Common Humanity

I borrowed a copy of Firoozeh Dumas' Funny in Farsi from the big pile of them in the book room at the public high school where I teach. Her sweet, humorous best-selling memoir has made its way onto lists of books that high schoolers might like. My own curriculum doesn't include this lovely book, first published in 2003, but I found its title intriguing. I was not disappointed.

Dumas' memoir of a Muslim girl growing up in Southern California is the perfect antidote for these days when we feel so much polarization among Americans and the sharp differences between the United States and the rest of the world. We find ourselves falling so easily into anger, fear, despair or self-rightousness, none of which does a thing to build bridges.

Ms. Dumas weaves light-hearted anecdotes about her move with her engineer father, her stay-at-home mother and her brothers from Iran to Southern California in the 1970s, a time when she felt very much like an outsider and encountered mostly curious, kind-hearted Americans.

Hers is a personal, not political, report, but inevitably, her family faces prejudice, particularly during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and when Firoozeh marries a Frenchman, whose Catholic mother approves neither of her Muslim religion or nor her cultural identity.

Dumas' narrative never descends into anger or bitterness. Instead, her humanity, her longing for beauty and love and her humor shine through. Yes, I both laughed out loud and cried real tears while reading this book. I found myself reading little snippets of it to our sons and my husband. She pokes gentle fun of just about everyone, including herself.

She throws in witty observations like this one, just when the reader leasts expects them“...The more modest and impractical the kitchen, the more likely one will be invited to stay for a meal. Show me a fancy house with a top-of-the-line gourmet kitchen, and I'll show you a family that eats out a lot.” 

This book is a great read for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. And I guess that would include all of us, right?


  1. I loved this book when I stumbled upon it at the library! Thanks for reminding me of a good book - I am off to check it out once again!

    1. And she has another memoir out now: Laughing without an Accent.