Funny in Farsi – A Memoir About Growing up Iranian in America – June Book Club Selection
In honor of fathers everywhere, this Family Locket Book Club selection for June is a hilarious look at author Firoozeh Dumas’ Iranian family and their adventures adjusting to the culture of southern California.
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Firoozeh didn’t set out to write a humorous memoir. She explains:
Before I started Funny in Farsi, I asked my husband one day if I had ever told him the story about the first time I went to summer camp. He said no. In fact, I had told no one. so I told him the story and he was laughing so hard that he was crying. I kept saying, “This is not a funny story. This is a sad story.” And he kept shaking his head and saying, “This is the funniest story I’ve ever heard.” And that’s when I realized that sometimes, if you give something thirty years and if no one was hurt, some of life’s less shining moments can be quite funny. (Funny in Farsi: A Readers Guide p. 202)
Each chapter centers on a story from Firoozeh’s life ranging from her childhood to her marriage. She includes tidbits about the family’s life in Iran before emigrating and finds humor in simple things, generally revolving around her father.
When I started writing my stories, I had no idea that my father would figure so prominently. Often I would start a story about myself, and by the time I was finished, it was about my father. How this happened I do not know. (Funny in Farsi: Afterword p. 191)
Firoozeh’s gift for writing turns a family trip to her father’s “favorite spot on Planet Earth” (Las Vegas) into the humorous chapter titled, “You Can Call Me Al.”
My father’s devotion to Denny’s restaurants approached religious fervor. To him, Denny’s was a clean oasis where the waitresses were always friendly. We didn’t really like the food, but that seemed a small price to pay for a clean bathroom in the middle of the desert. After breakfast, we’d get back in the car, turn on the air conditioner, and keep driving. We didn’t stop until the next Denny’s where we’d have a snack and my father would say how amazing it was that all Denny’s could be so clean, no matter where they were. “America is a great country,” he’d always add.
To read more about Firoozeh, her books, and her adventures in the writing world check out her website. A portion of her bio:
Firoozeh grew up listening to her father, a former Fulbright Scholar, recount the many colorful stories of his life. In 2001, with no prior writing experience, Firoozeh decided to write her stories as a gift for her children. Random House published these stories in 2003. Funny in Farsi was on the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and was a finalist for the PEN/USA award in 2004 and a finalist in 2005 for an Audie Award for best audio book. She lost to Bob Dylan. She was also a finalist for the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor, the first Middle Eastern woman ever to receive this honor. Unfortunately, she lost that one to Jon Stewart. According to Firoozeh’s father, Firoozeh should have won.
This is a gem of a memoir, engaging, humorous, and fun to look at from a family history perspective. Firoozeh Dumas’ ability to give insight into the ups and downs of family can teach us about our own writing. What can we learn as family historians from Funny in Farsi? I took away these 3 simple lessons.
3 Lessons for Family Historians from Funny in Farsi
1. Write a memoir, personal history, or family history that your family will actually enjoy and want to read. Firoozeh’s short chapters, centered on a story, do as much or more to chronicle the family’s history as a lengthy narrative.
2. Somewhere in everyone’s family history there is a story of immigration. Have you thought about your ancestor’s culture shock in moving to a new country, or maybe even a new state? How could that perspective round out a history you’d like to write?
3. The gift of time can help us to find humor in many of life’s challenges. Do our children want to hear only about our successes, or would they rather read stories of our mishaps? Looking back, we just might be able to write our story with the right touch of humor and humility that will give our loved ones a boost through trials of their own.
Take a break this summer, kick off your shoes, and prepare to be entertained. You won’t be sorry!
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