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Digging to America Hardcover – May 2, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 260 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tyler (Breathing Lessons) encompasses the collision of cultures without losing her sharp focus on the daily dramas of modern family life in her 17th novel. When Bitsy and Brad Donaldson and Sami and Ziba Yazdan both adopt Korean infant girls, their chance encounter at the Baltimore airport the day their daughters arrive marks the start of a long, intense if sometimes awkward friendship. Sami's mother, Maryam Yazdan, who carefully preserves her exotic "outsiderness" despite having emigrated from Iran almost 40 years earlier, is frequently perplexed by her son and daughter-in-law's ongoing relationship with the loud, opinionated, unapologetically American Donaldsons. When Bitsy's recently widowed father, Dave, endearingly falls in love with Maryam, she must come to terms with what it means to be part of a culture and a country. Stretching from the babies' arrival in 1997 until 2004, the novel is punctuated by each year's Arrival Party, a tradition manufactured and comically upheld by Bitsy; the annual festivities gradually reveal the families' evolving connections. Though the novel's perspective shifts among characters, Maryam is at the narrative and emotional heart of the touching, humorous story, as she reluctantly realizes that there may be a place in her heart for new friends, new loves and her new country after all. (May 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Two families arrive at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport in August 1997 to claim the Korean infants they have adopted. Strangers until that evening, they are destined to begin a friendship that will span their adoptive daughters' childhoods. Bitsy and Brad Donaldson are the quintessential middle-class, white American couple. Sami and Ziba Yazdan are Iranian Americans. From the beginning, the differences in the ways they will raise their daughters are obvious: Bitsy's well-meaning but overzealous efforts to retain her child's Korean heritage are evident in the chosen name–Jin-Ho–and in the Korean costumes that she dresses the girl in every year as they mark the anniversary of the adoption date. The Yazdans are comfortable with their daughter Susan's assimilation into their own Iranian-American culture. When Bitsy's widowed father begins to show romantic interest in Susan's grandmother, cultural differences are brought to a head. Tyler weaves a story that speaks to how we come to terms with our identity in multicultural America, and how we form friendships that move beyond the unease of differences. She does not dwell on the September 11 attacks, but subtly portrays the distrust that the Yazdans have to endure in the following months. Tyler's gift, as in her other novels, is her ability to infuse the commonplace with meaning and grace, and teens will appreciate her perceptiveness in exploring relationships within and between families across the cultural spectrum.–Kim Dare, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307263940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307263940
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (260 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is much of the familiar in Anne Tyler's latest novel, "Digging to America"; endearing characters, the bustle and flow of family life, and the small wonders of the quotidian world, but much is new here as well. For one thing, the protagonist Maryam is a most unusual "Tyler woman". She is small, compact and spare, elegant and soft spoken. She holds herself in and thinks before she speaks. She doesn't trail scarves, tissues and hairpins the way many of Tyler's women do. She's not prescient Justine from "Searching for Caleb", nor scatter-brained Maggie from "Breathing Lessons", nor a caretaker like Rebecca from "Back When We Were Grownups". And Maryam's "difference" is purposefully apt, for she is a foreigner. This novel, about two families who become intertwined when they both adopt Korean girls, explores the notions of fitting in, what it means to be "different", of what it is to be an "American", of what must be lost of the self to join a community. (This last point is amusingly illustrated in an attempt to coerce a tiny Chinese girl into giving up her pacifier.)

Readers familiar with Tyler's work will not be surprised to find that September 11th is given but a glancing swipe. After all, Tyler skimmed past WWII and the Vietnam war in her last novel "The Amateur Marriage"! The outside world does not affect Tyler's landscape the way family does. Ever.

This insightful tale of culture clash and will delight all Tyler fans. One can't help but assume that much of this story is autobiographical given that Tyler's late husband was from Iran. That certainly adds credibility to the characters. Also, the candid conversation two characters have about losing a spouse rings very true. I'm a huge Tyler fan, so she could publish her collected grocery lists and I would love it, but I can honestly offer my opinion that this novel will satisfy any reader interested in what it means to be a part of a whole; country, community or family.
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Format: Hardcover
I always marvel at what a quick and easy read Anne Tyler is without being glib and facile. Her latest novel DIGGING TO AMERICA is no exception. It's as if Jane Austin came to live in present day Baltimore and was kinder and gentler. There is not a single villain amongst Tyler's latest group of just off-center characters-- and there are enough folks here to fill up a Eudora Welty Sunday dinner-- I'm almost positive Ms. Welty would like this novel if she were alive.

Two couples, previously unknown to each other, arrive at the Baltimore airport on Friday, August 15, 1997 to meet their newly adopted baby daughters from Korea. Because of that meeting, they become friends, particularly the two mothers. The Donaldsons-- Bitsy and Brad-- are as American as key lime pie, and their new friends, Sami and Ziba Yazdan, are Iranian American. Much of the plot has to do with Sami's mother Maryam who came to the United States as a young bride and her difficulties with being between two worlds and not feeling at home in either.

The characters sometimes act silly, occasionally badly; but to a person they mean well. Ms. Tyler writes beautifully about finding love again in old age, a topic few writers do well or even attempt for that matter. Of course Gabriel Garcia Marquez covers that topic in the incomparable LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA; but then he writes well about everything. The author also tackles the tricky task of getting into the head of an Iranian character and apparently pulls it off. There are many instances of gentle humor here. Ms. Tyler pokes fun at Americans and all our foibles. Maryam has so much difficulty understanding Bitsy's father Dave: "He is so American. . . He takes up so much space. He seems to be unable to let a room stay as it is. . .
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Format: Paperback
I've always loved Anne Tyler's novels. Frankly, I consider her to be a modern American literary treasure. I love the predictability of Tyler's novels--there is usually a Baltimore setting, a focus on small family drama, a woman who suddenly find herself a stranger in her own life, and a host of unforgettable spot-on-perfect characters that jump to life off the page and live alongside us while we observe them interacting with one another. Tyler's latest novel, "Digging to America," is no exception; however, with this new work, Tyler adds a number of wonderful new ingredients.

The new ingredients are cultural differences, cultural assimilation, and an endearing Iranian-American character who finds herself a stranger, not only in her own life, but in her adopted country as well. There is an intriguing additional ingredient for those readers who love to get inside the minds and lives of authors: this book has strong autobiographical overtones, and this is a real bonus for an author as reclusive as Tyler! More about that later.

"Digging to America" is a novel about the slow amalgamation of two very different American families: the Donaldsons, a bright, cheery, everything-out-in-the-open, mildly quirky, but nonetheless typical, middle-class American family; and the Yazdans, an Iranian-American family who exhibit most of the archetypal cultural hang-ups of that particular ethnic subculture. On first appearance, these families seem to be polar opposites.

They are drawn together by chance at the Baltimore airport, where each family comes to collect its newly adopted baby daughter from Korea. From the very first, all the differences between these two families appear in strong, stark, loving, humorous, and typically Tyleresque contrast.
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