Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s family and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.
When my book club voted for this book to be on our list for this year I was excited: it was definitely different from our usual fare and it was a promise of a peek into a new cultural experience, which is always something I'm interested in (since I myself am an immigrant other immigrant experiences are something I'm curious about). Besides, the title has the word "Funny" in it, I expected humor and lots of it.
The book started out well enough and at first I could see myself finishing it, but then it took a turn for the worse. It is structured as a series of vignettes covering particular subjects such as doing touristy things in America, kindness of strangers, American food, camp experience, etc. They're not done in any kind of chronological order and one chapter can jump from childhood to adulthood in a paragraph or two. This made it difficult for me to enjoy the experience because I couldn't help but feel unfocused and scattered all over the author's life. The promised humor was there but it was mild and didn't make me chuckle even once.
I got through about a third of the book and realized that I was having an OK experience with it but I didn't really care one way or another what else the author was going to talk about. My main takeaway at that point was that she didn't particularly feel like she belonged in either her family because she grew up very Americanized nor in American society because of her name, appearance and heritage, but she was putting a brave face on it. I also think she possibly was hoping that this book would build a bridge of sorts between the cultures, show the Western world that Iranians are not all terrorists and the Persian world that all Americans don't hate them just because they're Muslim. The fact that this book was written and published after the 9/11 makes this idea plausible for me.
I really wanted to like this book but once I realized it didn't really work for me I set it aside. Life is too short for OK books, especially if they're not required reading (I'm looking at you, Manon Lescaut and Bartleby the Scrivener), even if intentionally or not they make "the other" seem not quite so alien.