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In the end, what sticks with the reader is an exuberant immigrant embrace of America. More family soon followed, and the clan has been here ever since. In a series of deftly drawn scenes, we watch the family grapple with American English hot dogs and hush puppies? Above all, this is an unforgettable story of identity, discovery, and the power of family love. It is a book that will leave us all laughing—without an accent.
Like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding , this book describes with humor the intersection and overlapping of two cultures.
Firoozeh Dumas was born in Abadan, Iran, and moved to California at the age of seven. After a two-year stay, she and her family moved back to Iran and resided in Ahvaz and Tehran. Two years later, Dumas returned to… More about Firoozeh Dumas. Both of our books had been published fairly recently, but I had not yet read The Kite Runner. I did, however, remember his name. I was rooting for him without ever having read a word.
Of course, once I read his book, I became an even bigger fan. Where do two Afghanis, one Iranian, and a Frenchman go for dinner? I suggested sushi. We ended up going to an Afghani restaurant, appropriately named Kabul. We have been friends since. Khaled Hosseini: Why did you use humor to write your memoir? Firoozeh Dumas: I never intended to write a funny book. It just came out that way. 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. This is a sad story. Fess up. Have you always been funny? FD: My father is the absolute funniest person I have ever known. I never felt that I was funny, because compared to him few people are. I consider myself an accidental humorist.
When I was in labor with my first child, I had days and days of contractions, followed by hours of childbirth, followed by an emergency C-section. At the end of what felt like an eternity, the doctor asked me if I wanted to see the placenta. I just saw one on public television. The last thing on my mind was being funny.
If so, do you know what the reaction has been? FD: Iran does not adhere to the international copyright laws, which means that any book can be translated without permission. The author has no control over the quality of the book. I did not want a bad translation of Funny in Farsi , because in writing my stories I was very careful about being funny without being insulting, and I was afraid that a bad translation would just be horribly embarrassing for my family.
So I found my own translator in Iran. Six months later, we got it back. We were lucky. The book has not yet reached the bookstores, so I have no idea how people will react. If Funny in Farsi is actually funny in Farsi, it will bring some levity to its readers in Iran, and I have the feeling they could use some levity right now.
KH: Since you are writing about real people, do you worry about the reaction of the people you have mentioned in your book? Not all the stories are flattering. We have since reunited with them, but we have never, ever discussed the book. Definitely not enough Mylanta in the world for that conversation. I have had a lot of complaints from relatives who are not in the book. They assumed it was because they are not important to me.
And in true Middle Eastern fashion, they did not complain to me but to my parents. The truth is that if I wrote about all my relatives, it would be a fourteen-volume set. FD: They love it. They keep thanking me for showing another side of the Iranian people to the world. Most Westerners think Middle Easterners just discuss politics and religion all day. KH: As a mother of two, when do you find the time to write? Where do you write? Do you have any writing rituals? FD: I write in spurts. This means the house gets very messy and dinner is something frozen.
Up until a few months ago, we lived in an square-foot house, with one table that served all our needs. It was also my writing spot. I would just put my laptop there and type away until my kids got up.
I once saw a book about writers and their special writing spots. There were photos of spectacular cottages on lakes and woodpaneled rooms filled with travel mementos.
I just always tried to make sure that the table was clean before I put down my laptop. FD: Every time I finished a story, I swore it was my favorite. Many of the stories still make me laugh out loud even though I have read them a hundred times. KH: How has your life changed since the publication of Funny in Farsi? I have spoken in churches, Jewish temples, Islamic centers, and schools. I have always believed that there are far more good people in this world than bad ones and that most people want to be reminded of our shared humanity rather than our differences.
Since the publication of Funny in Farsi , my theory has been thoroughly proven. I get e-mails from teachers all the time telling me that even their students who normally do not read loved reading Funny in Farsi. That makes my day every time. Adult readers tend to invite me to their home. KH: What are you working on now? Truth is, I am itching to write my next book but I am currently traveling full time. I have a bunch of stories in my head, so I am just waiting for a lull in my schedule so I can put them down on paper.
KH: You remembered so many details from your childhood. Did you keep a diary growing up, or could you simply tap into your own memories for this book, as I did in my own? FD : I was always that quiet kid in a room full of adults that everyone forgot about. I have always listened and observed, so when I started writing, details just flooded back to me.
And every time I finished a story, another popped up in its place. It was like using a vending machine: the candy falls down and is immediately replaced by another. KH : On the surface, at least, there is very little about politics in FD: One of the biggest problems I have faced as an Iranian in America is that no one knows much about Iran except what is on the evening news.
Politics has grossly overshadowed humanity in the Middle East and I wanted to write a book that would shine the light on humanity. They get it. So, do you think of yourself as Iranian or American? FD: There are parts of me that are Iranian and parts of me that are American. If I receive good service somewhere, I always write the management and tell them, and if I receive bad service, I let them know too.
And I vote in every election. KH: Are you—and if so how—trying to instill your Iranian culture in your kids? How about French culture? But more important, I wanted my children to be citizens of the world.
We have always discussed other countries and religions, and my children have no fear of people who are different than they are. They also grew up thinking that dim sum, pad thai, and chicken tandoori are as ordinary to other kids as pizza or chicken strips. I always spoke Persian to my children when they were little. Unfortunately, I do not have family near me, so once my children started school they insisted on speaking English.
I hope someday they can spend some time in Iran so they can once again learn Persian. My children love Persian food.
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The book describes Dumas's move with her family in , at age seven, from Iran to Whittier, California , and her life in the United States for the next several decades with a brief return to Iran. The book describes adjusting to the different culture and dealing with her extended family, most of whom also moved to the U. It was Dumas's first book. The book was translated into Persian language and became a bestseller in Iran in , selling over , copies. In , the book's Iranian translator, Mohammed Soleimani Nia, was arrested by Iranian authorities, although this may have been unrelated to the book. In , a pilot episode was filmed for ABC for a sitcom based on the book, also called Funny in Farsi , and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.
Funny in Farsi
Kazem is an intelligent engineer working for a large Iranian petroleum company, and he needs to be in the United States for his work. Over the next two years, Firoozeh slowly adjusts to her American surroundings. She and her mother get lost when they try to walk home, but a friendly American family lets them use the phone to call Kazem. Afterwards, Firoozeh quickly learns to speak English well, and very soon she can speak without any trace of an accent.