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Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America Paperback – January 13, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1 edition (January 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812968379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812968378
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (332 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This lighthearted memoir chronicles the author's move from Iran to America in 1971 at age seven, the antics of her extended family and her eventual marriage to a Frenchman. The best parts will make readers laugh out loud, as when she arrives in Newport Beach, Calif., "a place where one's tan is a legitimate topic of conversation." She is particularly good making gentle fun of her father, who loves Disneyland and once competed on the game show Bowling for Dollars. Many of the book's jokes, though, are groan inducing, as in, "the only culture that my father was interested in was the kind in yogurt." And the book is off-kilter structurally. After beginning with a string of amusing anecdotes from her family's first years stateside, one five-page chapter lurches from seventh grade in California to an ever so brief mention of the Iranian revolution, and then back to California, college and meeting her husband. In addition, while politics are understandably not Dumas's topic, the way she skates over the subject can seem disingenuous. Following the revolution, did her father really turn down the jobs offered to him in Iran only because "none were within his field of interest"? Despite unevenness, Dumas's first book remains a warm, witty and sometimes poignant look at cross-cultural misunderstanding and family life. Immigrants from anywhere are likely to identify with her chronicle of adapting to America.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Dumas first came to the U.S. from Iran in the early '70s when her father was sent to California on a two-year contract from the National Iranian Oil Company. Her family soon discovered that his presumed skill in English was basically limited to "vectors, surface tension and fluid mechanics." In short, humorous vignettes, the author recounts their resulting difficulties and Americans' almost total ignorance of Iran, illustrating the kindness of people and her father's absolute love of this country. After a brief return to Iran, they came back. This time, however, they were mistrusted and vilified, as a result of the Iranian hostage crisis. Her father lost his job and was forced to sell most of their possessions. Even this harsh treatment didn't diminish his love for the U.S., and they later reestablished themselves, though with a lower standard of living. Throughout, Dumas writes with a light touch, even when, after having been flown to DC by the state department to welcome the shah, they faced death threats and had to leave town. Her descriptions of American culture and her experiences with school, TV, and language (she was once called "Fritzy DumbAss" by a receptionist) could be the observations of anyone new to this country, and her humor allows natives and nonnatives alike to look at America with new insight.
Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It is so rare for me to read a book that made me laugh out loud multiple times.
Mom of Teenager
I highly recommend it to ANYONE and I'll make all my friends read it because I think that anyone who doesn't read this book is missing out!
Laura B.
This book is very sweet and very funny,sometimes laugh-out-loud funny,and also interesting and informative.
C. Hall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on January 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America," by Firoozeh Dumas, begins with 7-year old Firoozeh and her family moving from Abadan, Iran to the strange new land of Whittier, California. From there the story moves back and forth in time, covering the narrator's childhood in Iran, her adulthood and marriage, and more.
This is a wonderful book that made me laugh at loud at times. But it's also touching and inspirational. Dumas' narrative follows a colorful and likeable cast of characters, most notably her father Kazem: a hardworking engineer determined to live his own version of the American dream. Dumas' prose is clear, engaging, and quite witty. She writes with a contagious affection for her Iranian culture, the United States, and her family.
Although the book is often very humorous, Dumas also effectively covers some serious topics--the language barrier, religious controversy, female body image, the impact of the Iranian hostage crisis, etc. And along the way we get a spicy taste of Iranian culture and tradition. Overall, this is a superb addition to the canon of literature that explores the rich and complex topic of ethnicity in the U.S; it's a book well suited for college courses, reading groups, and individual pleasure reading. As a companion text, I strongly recommend "A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian Americans," edited by Persis M. Karim and Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Cheng-hao Weng on April 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
I understand the critiques and not-so-positive reviews that this book has received: mostly commenting on how it's just a bunch of stories put together, there's not really any "flow". Or it's just about superficial, daily, trivial issues. Nothing like a typical "memoir". I think they're all valid -- as long as these people are willing to admit their preconceived notions of what a "memoir" should be like. (that's why they're disappointed, right? and it's perfectly ok to be disappointed)

But, i strongly suggest finding out what the author's true intentions and goals are before criticizing the work. How? Ask her. (email, letters) Find a reliable source (such as an interview, etc).

The main point of the book is on our SHARED HUMANITY. The backdrop of much of her life (especially childhood) was the change from "oh you're from Iran? (and where the heck is the country?)" to "oh you're from Iran? (the country whose people are all evil and we hate you guys!)" She is trying to show a lighter picture of Iranians, Middle Easterners; that Iranians are people like us too! (seriously, do you think that all Iranians and Middle Easterns are serious and boring and American-haters? Is this the image that you get from the media?)

When you want to learn about a country or people, watching TV is one of the worst ways to learn it. Sure, it gives you a lot of facts, but the portrayal of people tends to focus simply on the negative side, or sometimes the idealistic/romanticized picture. (imagine, for a foreigner who has never been to the States who watches evening news every evening, don't you think s/he might come to the conclusion that the U.S. is a country full of robbers and theives and rapists and what you have nots? that's all it is on TV!!!
Read more ›
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By bmj on June 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The first thing you notice about Funny in Farsi is that it's impossible to put down. Dumas does an excellent job of weaving absolutely hilarious stories about her family (especially involving her dad, Kazem) with touching tales of family unity in difficult times. It's not just a typical fish out of water story about the struggle to assimilate into new surroundings, it involves much more than that. Funny in Farsi can engage you in side-splitting laughter and bring a touching tear to your eye all in the same chapter. It's an unbelievable book that leaves you wanting more when you reach the end much faster than you would have hoped. Buy this book, you'll love it.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A book with "funny" in its title already gives readers expectations of being funny--and rightly so, because it lives up to all of its expectations, and I laughed out loud at every page! It's Dumas' witty, clever play on words when she retells her tales of childhood mishaps that makes this book so endearing and easy to identify with. We've all tried to fit in somehow, somewhere and ended up doing exactly the opposite! Dumas manages to take these stories and tell them with such humor, that sad stories turn into absurd ones--providing lots of giggles and laughter on the way. But the book also has tremendous substance, as Dumas writes about her family with love--especially her father, who is the epitome of kindness, and the ultimate lessons she learns growing up in an Iranian family in California. Those lessons of generosity and humanity serve her well through life's ups and downs, and she is able to look back on even the toughest of circumstances with side-splitting humor. I highly recommend this book for anyone that has ever felt "displaced"--and that would be every one of us. Brilliant!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Another reviewer referred to Funny in Farsi as "My Big, Fat Iranian Life" and that's not a bad analogy, although I enjoyed it more than My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

There are a lot of funny episodes in the book, as Dumas describes her family's adjustments from pre-Revolution Iran to Seventies California. Dumas was young enough when her family came to America that she grew up speaking and acting as American as the other kids in her suburban neighborhood. The adults in her family had more trouble adapting to the peculiarities of American life, but they jumped right in anyway. Her father aspired to be a game-show contestant, her mother wanted to get along without learning English, and her uncle expected to lose weight without exercising. Sounds pretty normal to me.

But it gets a bit serious, too, when they return to Iran at the wrong time. Dumas describes how they are caught up in events and how they manage to return to California. Dumas's story and her upbeat attitude make this an engaging memoir.
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