Funny in Farsi: A Book Review

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I have always had a heart for for people who are marginalized, mistreated, and abused. My own writing frequently reflects this. I also love reading about different cultures and religions. These are a few of of the (many) reasons I appreciate Firoozeh Dumas and her book Funny in Farsi.

 

Funny in Farsi

Funny in Farsi

 

Firoozeh Dumas’s memoir Funny in Farsi is enjoyable to read for multiple reasons. She is able to convey her frustrations and the unfair treatment she received as a new immigrant to the United States while using humor, without seeming bitter or hostile. She is very balanced in her storytelling, particularly when she is careful to include and show empathy for other cultures that are frequently marginalized, particularly the Mexican community, which she lived near growing up. Dumas also has a very open minded attitude, which shines through when she is telling stories of her slightly eccentric, but very loving and supportive family.

Dumas expresses the racial profiling and stereotyping, as well as just pure ignorance, that she had to face in America growing up when she tells her stories, particularly in the essays “Bernice” and “The F Word.”  In “Bernice,” she talks about people not knowing what country she was even from, as well as how her French husband is admired while she faces hostility when Americans were taken hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran. She is able to express her thoughts on the subject gracefully and tactfully, without racially profiling the Americans, but still able to clearly convey her position. She uses humor in “The F Word” in the way she writes the barrage of questions that she would frequently receive about her name. Her choice of writing the questions in a run-on sentence was a very effective way of showing how she would be ambushed. She is brutally honest and transparent, however, in expressing the vulnerability she felt when going by both an American name and her Iranian name. She is very skilled at expressing honesty through comedy.

Perhaps one of Dumas’s most touching essay is “I-raynians Need Not Apply.” Although her characteristically dry humor is still present, it has more of a sad tone that some of her other essays. In it, she expresses the struggle her family endures when they first move to America a few weeks before the American hostage situation in Tehran. Her father loses his job and struggles to find one again until the hostages are released. She uses her normal comic wit when relaying her father’s disgust towards her view of politics, but the most striking feature of this essay is the way it ends. All of Dumas’s other compositions end with an amusing quip or humorous quote from her family; “I-raynians Need Not Apply,” ends on a serious note as Dumas quotes her father’s view on how tragic it is for people to hate.

In “The Wedding,” Dumas portrays her family realistically; they are very involved, slightly controlling, and want to run her entire wedding. An interesting thing to note, however, is that even though she describes her family with a mixture of love and exasperation, her relatives are by far the more preferable choice when compared to those of her husband. Her mother-in-law refuses to accept both Dumas and her family, simply because they are Iranian. The traditional Muslim ceremony she had with her family members seems more meaningful and heartwarming than the ceremony she has with his family in a church. Dumas is very careful, however, not to bash her husband’s side of the family, even though they did not approve of her marrying their son and made no secret of that fact.

In all of her essays comprising the book as a whole, Dumas is very open and honest but avoids being bitter. This a mark of a talented writer, and perhaps her greatest strength.

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