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It Ain't So Awful, Falafel Paperback – August 15, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—In Dumas's first foray into middle grade fiction, readers follow Zomorod Yousefzadeh through middle school in Newport Beach, CA, during the Iran hostage crisis. Zomorod, who goes by Cindy (like in The Brady Bunch), and her family are from Iran, living in America while her father works to build an oil refinery in their home country with American engineers. While the Yousefzadehs are able to fly under the radar in their early days in America, mostly being mistaken for Mexican, their entire situation changes when Iranian students storm the U.S. Embassy and take American hostages. Facing hostile racism and the loss of their only source of income, Cindy's family learns what it means to stick together, to create the best of an awful situation, and to embrace their heritage while incorporating new customs and friendships into their lives. This title reads more like a memoir than narrative fiction, which makes sense given Dumas's previous adult titles, Funny in Farsi (2003) and Laughing Without an Accent (2008, both Villard). Although the dialogue sometimes borders on textbooklike explanations of Iranian history, this tactic might be necessary for young readers to truly understand the underlying problems in later action. Dumas gives each short chapter a clever title, includes humorous asides throughout the narration, and keeps readers engaged with the very real and relatable difficulties of finding friends after moving, dealing with family issues both domestic and abroad, and discovering one's own identity in middle school. VERDICT For large middle grade collections looking to widen their diverse, upper middle grade offerings. Hand to fans of Malala Yousafzai's I Am Malala (Little, Brown, 2014) or Erin Entrada Kelly's Blackbird Fly (HarperCollins, 2015).—Brittany Staszak, St. Charles Public Library, IL --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Filled with humorous touches and authentic cultural references, Dumas’s story will resonate not just with young immigrants but with any readers trying to adapt to new situations."
* "Dumas’ semi-autobiographical novel is both funny and affecting...Readers will be thoroughly invested in Cindy’s story, whether holding their breath or laughing out loud, and always hoping that the Yousefzadehs will come out on top."
—Booklist, STARRED review
* "[A] fresh take on the immigrant experience—authentic, funny, and moving from beginning to end."
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review
"[It Ain't So Awful, Falafel] is funny, affecting, and nuanced...The novel doesn’t sugarcoat the issues, but it balances these serious notes with preteen antics and melodramas that Blume would be proud of; Cindy’s voice will undoubtedly draw in readers from all backgrounds."
"...keeps readers engaged with the very real and relatable difficulties of finding friends after moving, dealing with family issues both domestic and abroad, and discovering one’s own identity in middle school."
—School Library Journal
“Firoozeh Dumas’s unique gift is her ability to use her wry, bold, but always gentle wit to tell serious stories about family, heritage, and loss. . . . In this era of suspicion and paranoia, [this book] offers a tender and compassionate glimpse into the immigrant experience.” —Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner
"This book is a sheer delight—rambunctious and rich. . . . Firoozeh Dumas writes with the perfect light touch that makes us wonder once again: Who is running the big world and why not this person, please?" —Naomi Shihab Nye, novelist and poet
"[A]n honest, witty, and moving portrayal of what it means to be an Iranian immigrant in the late 1970s, during the Iran hostage crisis."—Scholastic Teacher Magazine
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I loved, loved, loved this book, and this author. Highly recommend this laugh-out-funny and moving story of Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh, a girl from Iran who has spent several years, here and there, in America due to her father's engineering job.
The time period is the late 70s, when a lot of people in America were hearing about Iran for the first time due to political strife and the taking of American hostages. I was exactly the same age as Zomorod during the period of time the story takes place. In Catholic School, we would turn toward the window, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and then take turns on who would lead the prayer for the hostages.
Zomorod, like any kid, seeks to fit in, and is embarrassed by her parents. She has the added pressure of good English, but not knowing all the idioms, as well as parents who are different culturally from the other adults. And schoolmates who think she comes from a land of an animal she'd only ever seen in a zoo -- a camel.
I found myself chuckling at several opportunities at Zomorod's observations and wit, and at her mix of love and embarrassment in regard to her parents.
Americans are written as essentially good people, albeit a bit ignorant on world events. The most villainous character is still portrayed with some sympathy. Because the story takes place over a couple years, the younger characters get an opportunity to mature.
In fact, one of the details that impressed me most is how the Zomorod at the beginning of the story and at the end are clearly the same girl, but each version think and behave appropriate to her age. She has gained wisdom and confidence and lasting friendship. (I adored her circle of friends.)
If there is one flaw, it's that the author imparts a lot of info on the Iran, which is both interesting and vital to the story, but the information is often imparted in a less-than-natural fashion. The best method is Zomorod's best friend asking questions out of interests, concern, and her plan to become a journalist. But then there is the neighbor who stops periodically to ask to have events explained to him.
I hope that there will be more books in this series, because I would love to stay in touch.
This is the story of 1977-1980. For those alive then this is when the shah fell and the Iranian hostage crisis happened.
I was in high school and college during this time and it was amazing to read this history which I remember as told from another point of view.
We all feel alienated from time to time in our lives. Imagism bring an Iranian in America during this time.
Great voice. Great story. Friendship and heartache.
Now to go read her other books.