Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Middle Eastern Feminist Literature (Round Two)

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

Group members:
Sodaba D.
Jenny L.
Vanessa G
Ashley A.

An interesting "conversation" between Khaled Hosseini and Firoozeh Dumas.


Ashley A said...

Post: 1 A
The novel begins with Firoozeh explaining how she and her family have left their homeland of Iran and moved to the U.S., where they encountered a new culture, people, and ideas. Although her father, Kazem and her older brother are the only people in her family to have had prior experiences in America, Firoozeh had her own image of America. Kazem’s view was very traditional and I felt somewhat stereotypical of what many foreigners perceive America to be, “a place where anyone, no matter how humble his background, could become an important person.” (4) Although I too agree with his statement, it will be interesting to see if his views change later on in the book. With Firoozeh however, she thought of America as a place where she “could buy more outfits for Barbie,” (4) and this line immediately reminded me of the short story, “Bar-B-Q” and how in the end, nothing else seemed important as long as she had a Barbie doll. The fact that Firoozeh came from a different country, could be shadowed by her Barbie doll and all the ideas that come with the doll.

Just by reading about Firoozeh’s first day of school made me feel sorry for her and I don’t think her teacher made her situation any better. Especially since the teacher, after writing “…F-I-R-O-O-Z-E-H…”(4) on the board, preceded to write “…I-R-A-N…”(5). I thought the teacher’s actions were inappropriate because it just made the whole situation even more uncomfortable for Firoozeh on her first day. Does anyone else feel as if her teacher’s actions were uncalled for?

Although Firoozeh makes many of her situations comical and light-hearted, the readers still are reminded of the division between men and women in the Iranian community. Firoozeh states how her mother “…gave up her dreams, married …[her]… father, and had a child…”(5) all by the tender age of seventeen. Even though this would have been more common in America during the early-1900’s, by 1972, the general era of the book, things were a little different. Regardless of one’s religion, race, or gender, having to forgo one’s dreams at the age of seventeen in order to start a family, is a difficult task; one that required her mother to mature quickly and adapt to her new environment. However, the same is true with Firoozeh and I viewed their situations in somewhat of a similar manner. In such that, Firoozeh not only had to adapt to living in America, making new friends, and most severely, learning a new language, she had to serve as the primary translator for her family when her father wasn’t available. The only difference I saw in their situations was that her mother was forced to forgo her dreams, but Firoozeh is now given the opportunity to make her own dreams become a reality. Such as her father believes, America is “a place where anyone, no matter how humble his background, could become an important person,” (4) it is now Firoozeh’s responsibility to do something with her new array of options. I am extremely excited to read about what Firoozeh chooses to become now that she lives in America.

A cultural note that I also discovered to be really funny was when Firoozeh learned what “… Americans call[ed] a wild-goose chase” (12) and unfortunately she had to learn its meaning the hard way. But these differences in every culture are the little things that make every place and person unique in their own way. For instance, in Spanish there is an expression something like, lento cómo una broma, which means lazy as a lark. Although that doesn’t mean much in English that saying is comical in Spanish, such as a wild-goose chase is funny in English, but clearly not so funny in Persian.

Ashley A said...

Post 2 A:

A theme of the importance in family, unity, and togetherness, becomes more apparent as the book continues because more times than none, a family outing will consist not only of Firoozeh’s immediate family, but of her extended family as well. Firoozeh’s father believes, “a crowded dinner at his sister’s house where only half the guests have chairs is preferred to a meal with four people and ample seating.” (18)When applying that to American culture, it seems as if people prefer comfort and space to an overcrowded table of family members they probably never had met prior to the event. However, in other countries this is extremely common, probably because of the lack in resources, food, and supplies, that restrict them from being able to make large sized meals just for four or five people, but this restriction brings about positive things because everyone in the family has the opportunity to know one another. The Dumas family appreciates the fact that in California, they live about an hour and a half away from each other and this brings about the convenience of being able to call upon one another whenever there is a problem or someone needs assistance. I think adapting to American life was made easier for the Dumas family because a lot of their relatives lived close by.

Firoozeh’s infamous trip to Disneyland was hilarious and being lost in a huge amusement park at a young age is terrifying in it or itself, but adding on the fact that Firoozeh did speak much English made her situation even worse. To me, it always seems as if people who are designated to assist people who are lost, do more damage than would have occurred if they weren’t trying to help at all. Firoozeh’s experience with one the ladies who was trying to help Firoozeh said, “will you do it for Mickey” (21) and Firoozeh was thinking, “…Mickey was the reason I was lost in the first place. Had I not been trying to talk to him on those so-called phones, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I didn’t owe that rodent anything. (21) That will most likely be one of the many quotes I will remember from this book because it is exactly what I would have been thinking at that very moment and I think it was so appropriate because all Firoozeh wanted to do was find her family, not act as an interpreter for some other lost kid, who didn’t even understand Persian!

A barrier was always stopping someone in this family from accomplishing a goal and all too often, it was a language barrier and many stories in the book include Firoozeh’s recollection on how these barriers hindered her. Especially since, “even though ….[her]… mother never attended a Brownie meeting, she knew that the leader, Carrie’s mom, opened up her home…” each week and even Firoozeh’s mom, “…watching silently from a distance, had also felt the warmth of generosity and kindness.” (36) In this situation, it is kind people like Carrie’s mother that look beyond the physical and accept others for who they are on the inside and this moment, introduces the idea of actions speak louder than word. Although Firoozeh’s mother didn’t understand much English, a kind hand jester of warmly welcoming Firoozeh into her home, was understood in any language.

I find that there is also an identity battle that the Dumas family had to overcome as well, because once the U.S. began to have problems with Iran, many Americans felt the need to shun the Dumas’ solely based on their nationality. Firoozeh’s mother however, thought she “…solved the problem by claiming to be from Russia or “Torekey.” (39) Although I understand her decision in telling people she was from another country other than Iran because it prevented people from venting their frustrations on them, I think it was a difficult thing for her mother to do. Such as later in the book when Firoozeh temporarily changes her name to Julie and how she “…felt fake…” (65), even though all of these changes makes for an easier transition into American life and culture, taking on a second name or acting as if one is from a different country, is equivalent to giving up one’s identity and even the simplest things that make each individual unique.

Imagine you were born in a country other than the U.S., would you forgo your identity in order to make an easier transition into American life?

R. Gallagher said...

Great start Ashley. I'm going to have to read this book; it seems great.

Ashley A said...

Post 3 A

Admittedly, I was a little surprised that Firoozeh asked her parents if she could attend an overnight camp because like always, there are going to be those few kids who enjoy teasing others. However, I was hopeful that Firoozeh would be able to learn from her experiences at camp and in turn give find more confidence and encouragement to interact with other kids in America. By the end of her trip, I felt that Firoozeh was fortunately able to grow from her ventures and this came about after she spent most of her time making key chains and I think that the key chains were symbolic of the obstacles she had to overcome while living in America. Firoozeh had stated earlier that her”… modest culture and even more modest family…” (46) had made her too uncomfortable to take a shower around others, which forced her to spend the majority of her time making crafts instead of partaking in “…horseback riding, the overnight campout, the archery lessons…”(47) Missing out on all of those events, I feel, had collectively became links to her key chain, making the key chain and herself a lot stronger than originally because she was able to see that although she was alone for the majority of her trip, she made it to the end, without simply deciding to return home early.

I had previously stated how both, Reading Lolita in Tehran and Funny in Farsi have forced me to appreciate even the smallest things in my life and not to take as much for granted. Firoozeh was comparing Iran to California when she commented on how “…the first things …[she]… noticed was the pleasant absence of mosquitoes”(60) and although that is something very minute, it really caused me to think about my living conditions. I thought about how much I hate extreme heat, especially without air conditioning and insects such as flies and mosquitoes that come out during the summer time, and how numerous people in other parts of the world have to live with these factors every single day. Many of cases, I would feel too unbearable for me to endure, but yet, there are so many people who are content and grateful for the small things that they have.

I found it interesting that Firoozeh’s father ate ham because I was under the impression that Muslims did not eat pork, however, his explanation as to why he did eat ham was intriguing. It struck me as odd when Firoozeh said, “I never asked to eat the ham and my dad never offered. Having been part of the hunt was satisfying enough for me” (86) and the only reason why I thought this comment was odd, was because it appeared as if she was implying that she didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her father. In the beginning of the book, it appeared that her family was very close, but judging by the tone of this line, I felt as if Firoozeh longed for attention from her father. After I came across the time when Firoozeh talked about her father taking on the role of a swimming instructor for the children in her family, the close bond they once shared, seemed to unravel as he continued to reiterate, “she just stinks” (70) as an excuse for why she couldn’t swim. Although they may just have the type of relationship where they don’t really express their love for one another, it seems a bit odd to me because they seem to cherish the time they spend with their extended family. Have Firoozeh and her father lost the close relationship they once shared?

“There are good people and bad people in every religion. Just because someone is Muslim, Jewish, or Christian doesn’t mean a thing. You have to look and see what’s in their hearts. That’s the only thing that matters, and that’s the only detail God cares about.” (87)

Such as in Reading Lolita in Tehran, there seems to be certain situations in each novel where the author empathizes a few themes more than others and I think in this quote alone, Firoozeh wants the readers to understand that despite the obvious differences between Iranians and Americans, underneath all of that, lies people who all have the same basic beliefs. Setting aside their religious beliefs and nationality, people everywhere just want to be happy and desire to be treated equally. I think Firoozeh implies that by looking beyond the physical and varying religious beliefs, one will find kindhearted people and all of the rest is left in the hands of those of a higher power.

Vanessa G. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vanessa G. said...

Post 1 (a)


I want to start off by saying that I really didn't think Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas would be actually funny...but, I actually "laughed out loud" many times while reading this book. I'm glad Carla suggested it.

I found myself comparing Funny in Farsi with Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, mostly since they both take place in different parts of Iran, especially Tehran. I half expected Dumas to include subjects based on politics in her country or possibly even the veils, but she didn’t, at least not much and I was surprised. “They saw Americans who had bumper stickers on their cars that read ‘Iranians: Go Home’ or ‘We Play Cowboys and Iranians...these Americans felt that they knew all about Iran and its people, and they had no questions, just opinions,” (36). I assume that this phase took place during the Iranian Revolution and the negative relationship the Americans had with them. Some of the Americans displayed their hatred on their cars and windows, but little did they know that the same thing was going on in Iran, but on a deeper level, with death threats (Reading Lolita in Tehran). These two books clash with one another, but at the same time, they are extremely different. I suppose I can’t say that one of Dumas’s techniques is applying humor because the book is called Funny in Farsi.

As I mentioned before, my prediction of the memoir would be about her being culturally different and how difficult it was as a struggle to migrate to the United States of America—and I was wrong. As I began reading the memoir, I noticed that this family, her family, does not despise America like the other Iranians in Nafisi’s novel did, let alone allowing one into the family through marriage. I realized that I was ignorant, especially after reading the first Middle Eastern book. “To him, America was a place where anyone, no matter how humble his background, could become an important person. It was a kind and orderly nation full of clean bathrooms, a land where traffic laws were obeyed...it was the Promised Land. For me, it was where I could buy more outfits for Barbie,” (Dumas 4). Dumas describes America as the Promised Land because opportunities, at least for her family [she was still a child in the beginning of the novel] were available. I also noticed throughout the novel, her and her family worry about “clean bathrooms” rather than more important matters. I suppose that in Iran, spotless facilities were rare or not found at all.

I find that I am really fond of Dumas’s father, Kazhem. He was the first in Dumas’s immediate family to migrate to the United States, yet his English was “a version of English not yet shared with the rest of America...his translations, however, were highly suspect,” (8). They would spend hours at a department store or longer than usual in a particular restaurant that served “hot dogs” or “catfish” or even “sloppy joes”. Her father is a humorous character that plays a significant role in the novel. Kazhem had quite an impact on his daughter, Firoozeh, which is why he was mentioned in every chapter. It was he who the mother and Dumas actually depended on. I also found that I could really relate to the family. “I’ve no longer encouraged my parents to learn English. I’ve given up...now, when my mother wants to ask the grocer whether he has any more eggplants in the back that are a little darker and more firm...she can do so in Persian, all by herself,” (12). My mother and other family members are the same way because they have mini Haitian stores where they are able to purchase food in Creole with no problem—though my parents do speak some English. What do you guys think about her father?

Dumas also made a particular reference to the Tower of Babel. She was in Disney Land with her family but was separated for a while accidentally. She encountered a young boy that too was separated from his family and the Lost and Found team assumed that she and the young boy were from the same country. She told the woman more than once that the boy was not from Iran but she persisted. “Just to get rid of her, I walked up to the boy...not only was he separated from his loved ones, he was now trapped in the Tower of Babel,” (21). I did not know what the Tower of Babel was so I researched it and found that in the first book Genesis in the Bible, it was a city that brought society together, but was not for religious purposes, rather for praising man. Then, God was angry and decided to confuse the people by casting different languages so no one would have the ability to understand the other. I thought it was interesting that she used this monumental structure because the boy was trapped in an unfamiliar setting and could not understand what the people were saying to him.

Ashley A said...

Post 1 B

I completely agree with Vanessa in the sense that the book is extremely comical. On numerous occasions I find myself not only laughing at one of Firoozeh’s comments or mishaps, but also saying to myself, that is exactly what I would have said if I were in her situation. I think the memoir’s ability to draw the readers in, steams from the fact that it is so relatable, making it easier to image how one would react if he were in Firoozeh’s shoes. Firoozeh’s technique of using humor to make difficult situations lighthearted aids in relaying serious messages to the readers and it also attracts a broader range of readers because many times, one will think a memoir is going to be about some monotonous story but clearly, Firoozeh does otherwise.

Vanessa commented on Kazhem’s infatuation with America’s clean bathrooms, and I too noticed this reoccurring idea. After some thought, I concluded that their had to be a bigger meaning behind this idea, one that went beyond the general, and I feel as if Firoozeh is once again emphasizing the fact that hundreds of people, more so in America, take so much for granted, such as clean bathrooms. For instance, in America if someone walks into any establishment, like a restaurant, he expects clean facilities and if they are less than satisfactory, he can speak with the manager and depending on the severity of the problem, even get a free meal afterwards. However in other countries, this is not the case at all, the level of service one receives generally depends of his social status. Ironically, most Americans probably consider the most minimal level of service to be clean facilities, but yet, it is often the least expected service for those in lower classes in other countries.

Not until now, did I begin to think about the importance of Kazhem in the story and I agree with Vanessa that he plays a major role in Firoozeh’s life. He seems to be the ultimate father in a way because he tries to teach Firoozeh how to swim, he was the first person to comfort her after she was lost in an amusement park and he tried to make her transition into her new school in America easier by making sure her mother could attend class with her. Most importantly, Kazhem is an amazing role model because he is showing his kids that it is possible to fulfill one’s dreams of “…[becoming]… an important person” (4) in America by overcoming tremendous social barriers and working hard to accomplish any goal at hand.

Ashley A said...

Post 4 A

Of all the memoirs I have read thus far, I definitely feel this has been the most personal, luring, and comical memoir. In the last chapter, Firoozeh comments on her aspirations of having her memoir on the Best Sellers List and whether or not that happens, I truly feel she has redefined the meaning of hard work, happiness, and finding a positive side to any situation.

Discrimination and unequal treatment towards the Dumas Family were all to often events, such was the case when they went on a trip to Washington D.C. with the hopes of seeing Shah, only to be confronted by “…anti-Shah demonstrators…”(12) and death threats. Just as Shah was about to make his appearance, all of his supporters were stampeded by angry, screaming protesters, which caused everyone to flee a lawn that was “…suddenly covered with bloody and injured Iranians.”(113) To make this situation worse, as Firoozeh and her parents ran to what they thought would be safety and asked a police office for help, he replied, “…sorry, that’s not my job,”(113) leaving them to find another method of survival. Disgust, was the only thing that came across my mind after reading those few pages because a role of police officer is to enforce the law and to protect citizens and this officer saw these brutal attacks and did absolutely noting to help the innocent victims, for no other reason other than their nationality. Discrimination reaches its peck at those moments when someone would rather watch people die, rather than help them just because the color of their skin.

To continue with the idea of unequal treatment, I think many of these problems steam from the fact that people are just uneducated about other religions and races. The dislike the Americans and Iranians had for one another in the book evolved from misrepresentations of each group. On American television shows, it is common to see those who have everything, with the looks, a perfect body and large sums of money. Firoozeh too noticed this and commented on how she, “could not understand why Brooke, who …[was]… the same age as …[her]…never went through an awkward adolescent stage” and at times, she “…wished …[she] could be Brooke Shields… so did …[her]… mom.”(108) It is hard for people in other countries not to have the wrong impression of Americans when they only glimpse they have of Americans, consist of people living in mansions and driving expensive cars. Firoozeh’s father experienced a similar situation after the Iranian Revolution when he lost his job and was denied many jobs because people didn’t want to hire an Iranian. He found it sad that “…people so easily hate an entire population simply because of the actions of a few”(121) and he is more than justified in feeling that way seeing as how he was not able to successfully provide for his family because of the atrocious actions of Iranians. But I still think my theory of educating oneself on other races, religions, and countries would apply in this situation as well because that way some employees would at least understand that not all Iranian think alike and at the very least, have given him a chance to prove himself worthy of a position.

I definitely think this book was full of surprises, one of which occurred when Firoozeh decided to marry Francois, a French Catholic and shockingly enough, her parents supported her decision “…because …[she]… was in love with him.” (143) Dating out of her race was something I thought for sure her father wouldn’t approve of, however, throughout the book, various characters were able to gain a stronger ability to accept others despite their differences. That lesson seemed to be something Firoozeh took with her as she grew older because her and Francois instilled in their children, “…the simple truth that the best way to go through life is to be a major donor of kindness”(160) Acceptance and kindness were two reoccurring ideas and they were two factors that made Firoozeh, her marriage, and her family’s transition into American life easier because people were willing to look beyond their physical differences and realize that they were just like any other Americans, with dreams of prosperity.

On a lighter note, I stated in previous posts how Firoozeh would say or comment on things that I found to be hilarious and often her remarks would be exactly something that I would have said, given the chance. I found it very funny when Firoozeh took on a summer job at the movie theatre and often, people would order a jumbo popcorn, full of butter and had the audacity to add a diet drink to their order. Firoozeh (and myself) would think, “look, you’re about to consume ten thousand calories of fat, so a diet drink isn’t going to make a difference.” (129) Although I am the last person that should ever comment on eating healthy, but honestly can anyone share with me why so many people insist on getting a diet anything after ordering something that is clearly over a thousand calories?

Vanessa G. said...

Post 2 (a)

Hello again!
The second part of the memoir is no less comical than the first. Hope everyone's enjoys it.

Firoozeh's family, though they are not at fault since they are in a foreign country, completely exaggerates certain trips that they go on, well, from the eyes of one who has lived in this country long enough to know particularities of these places. “Las Vegas was a four-hour drive from our house. The highway leading to this Promised Land cut through the desert, which meant that watching the scenery from the backseat of our Chevrolet rivaled the thrill of watching a fishing show,” (50). I would assume that the description of Las Vegas that Firoozeh gives us is based on what her father considers it. After reading that passage, my mind wandered to married couples and how they end up separating because of the husband's inability to discontinue gambling—especially in Las Vegas. Thousands of Americans love Las Vegas, but also carry the burden of losing countless amounts of money in the end. I just thought it was a bit forceful to consider “Las Vegas” a Promised Land”, as if it was holy and would bring great things—only by chance! Also, “discovering” America was the best thing that could happen to Firoozeh's family. “My father...was the first member of his family to study in America...and...the first to settle permanently in America...'I am the Christopher Columbus of the family,' he always says,” (68). Her father declares himself the C.C of the family and he's right. He represents an enormous figure for his people back home in Iran and he was able to bring some family members to live in the state of California. He discovered a land of numerous opportunities and where anything is possible. He is worthy of this title.

The cultural gap between Americans (well mainly myself) and Iranians again resurfaces in the second portion of the book. “To Francois's family, a vacation meant going to their secluded seaside villa in Greece, where they brushed up on their tanning and windsurfing...to my family, a vacation usually meant going to a relative's house and sleeping on the floor, squeezed between several cousins,” (59). I noticed that in Reading Lolita in Tehran and Funny in Farsi, family is extremely significant in their culture. A drive to a family member's home is considered a vacation and the way Firoozeh describes it, it seems pretty uncomfortable, too. Francois is Firoozeh's husband and is more Americanized than her family. I found their marital relationship really interesting because she is a secular Muslim and he is a Catholic. I questioned whether their would be a religious clash between the two and how they would raise their children. But, I feel Francois is a perfect husband for Firoozeh because they share similar interests; it reminds me of the relationship between Azi and her magician in Reading Lolita in Tehran. What do you guys think about their relationship?

Also, it dawned on me that Firoozeh possessed an emotional decision to change her name into a more American one. I asked myself if I had a foreign name, would I have changed it just to suit those that can't pronounce it? But then again, hundreds of immigrants change their names or alter it somehow to American “standards”. “My name, Firoozeh, chosen by my mother, means “Turquoise” in Persian. In America, it means “Unpronounceable”...to strengthen my decision to add an American name...all the kids incessantly called me “Ferocious.” I wanted to be a kid with a name that didn't draw so much attention...I finally chose the name “Julie” mainly for its simplicity,” (63-64). It continues to say that her two older brothers had also changed their names. I see where she's coming from when she decided to change her name. In the beginning of the book, she went to school and informed everyone she was Iranian, and not one student knew of this country—making it all the more desirable to change her name. But then, things changed for her because with her new name, she didn't feel like herself. “All was well until the Iranian Revolution...I spoke English without an accent and was known as Julie, people assumed I was American...these people would have probably never invited me to their house had they known me as Firoozeh. I felt like a fake,” (65). It was bound to happen that she would soon realize the circumstances of changing her name. This did take place during the Iranian Revolution as she stated and hatred for these people was an all up high. I agree with her that she would have received different treatment had she kept her Persian name.

Happy reading

Vanessa G. said...

Post 3 (a)

I'm back for the third part of the book!

Is it just me or can I not help compare every nit bit of details of Funny in Farsi to Reading Lolita in Tehran?

I wanted to bring up Firoozeh's stay at summer camp. I thought this was very odd because of her attitude towards the other children that she is not able to get a long with. I felt much sympathy for her because she sat secluded on the bus ride over to the camp and the other children made fun of her. She ends up making two friends while in camp. She continues attending the same classes everyday making key chains and by the end of her stay, she had enough for everyone in her home. I thought it was a bit drastic that she decided not to bathe for the whole week at camp because she was uncomfortable showering or dressing in front of the other girls. Is there a deeper meaning behind Firoozeh making key chains at her stay during camp? The fact that that was all she did on her time makes me wonder if her not having any friends the real reason behind it?

There was one particular passage that reminded me of Gatsby in Reading Lolita in Tehran. My oldest paternal uncle, Muhammad, did become a doctor, the first in the family...After completing his education, he set up a practice in Southern California, joining the ranks of other hardworking immigrants pursuing the American dream. Eventually, he managed to create a lifestyle somewhat like the one he left in Iran,” (101). In our first literary circle book, many of the Iranians completely shunned the American dream. Azi's class even put Gatsby on trial. Slogans mocking Americans were posted on the walls of many public accommodations. I thought it was an interesting comparison because her family seems to embrace the American dream. Is it because they are secular Muslims? Another difference I found was when Firoozeh informs us that “...women who chose to cover themselves head to toe with a chador were either older women or villagers. In the cities, Iranian woman preferred to dress like Jackie Kennedy or Elizabeth Taylor,” (105). This was a dramatic contrast because in Azi's point of view, the women were forced to dress with chadors and not really any descriptions of women dressing up as Jackie Kennedy.

There was one passage that put me in awe. Her father ate ham and I am familiar with the Muslim culture enough to know that they are forbidden to eat ham. I find that it has something to do with her father not being in his native country to care enough that he's not following the rules of Islam, maybe it's a symbol. The further one is away from their country makes it bound to lose religious customs. He tells Firoozeh (after she hurriedly tries to save her father's soul from Hell) that Muhammad the prophet only forbade ham because people did not know how to properly cook it. I think it was just an excuse and I feel that Firoozeh agrees because he just dismisses the subject and she doesn't question him any further.

I did not know that Iranians traveled from their country to Washington to either protest or support the shah that came to visit the American president? Her graphic details of the scene that followed made me imagine the same exact scene of the protest in Iran that Azi took part in, which led to gunshots and stabbings. Firoozeh's family was extremely fortunate to escape the physical damage that could have killed them all.

Vanessa G. said...

Post 4 (a)

Comes the end of the novel.

Dating in Iranian culture was mysterious to me...mainly because it does not exist. I find that a relationship would be difficult to be successful if the parents are the ones that choose the suitor for the woman because neither know anything about the other in most cases, but everything is different in other cultures. “Dating, like the rodeo circuit or trout farming, is a completely foreign concept to my parents. They, like all their sisters and brothers, never dated, their marriages having been arranged by family members,” (142). This is when Firoozeh informs her parents that she is dating Francois, but I now see why she didn't intend to tell them in the first place because it wouldn't matter to them. The way her parents treated Francois to a fancy dinner at a Persian restaurant in Los Angeles seemed “sketchy” only because I began to think whether they would have done the same if it were they who chose the suitor for their daughter. Either that, or her father was just showing off because Firoozeh describes him as a “proud man”. Do any of you guys think that she possibly disappointed her mother by marrying a foreign man instead of an Iranian man? Consider this quote:

“My mother had always hoped that I would marry an Iranian doctor, someone whom she could speak to without an interpreter...that as soon as I reached my late teens, I would become the Iranian daughter whom she could relate to, the daughter who would dutifully let her parents help her select a mate,” (143).

I think I found the answer to a question I had pondered about earlier: why Firoozeh's family embraced the American dream? “Francois had attended church a handful of times in his entire life. He was a s Catholic as I was Muslim,” (146). Her family aren't really religious, which is why they are somewhat infatuated with American life and culture. Also, the question was raised about how Firoozeh and Francois would religiously raise their children. Neither aren't really religious so I assume their children wouldn't be either, at least until they can decide for themselves. They decided to host two separate weddings, one of a Catholic tradition and one of Muslim tradition. I found the conversation between Firoozeh and the Catholic priest fascinating because it kept me on the edge whether or not he would accept marrying two different individuals, especially one that counters his won religion. But all went well.

I can relate to Firoozeh in many ways because her family and my own share similar characteristics. “My parents are highly evolved worriers. My mother once called me in the middle of the day to tell me to make sure I wear shoes when cleaning the attic...[and]...my parents do not limit themselves to worrying about things that have actually happened. Dreams are also fair game,” (155). I shouldn't limit this to my parents because it's generally my whole family. My mom would call me, while I am at work and ask me if I'm doing alright because she saw a report on the news that a child in Dorchester was shot three times and tell me to be careful walking home! My great aunt was the one with the dreams. She would call our house and tell my mom to either pray for me or call me because she had a dream about me!

Her father Kazem was a significant character in her novel because he was in all of the chapters. What I find ironic is that it seems that her and her father didn't really have a close relationship, she just happened to be along for the ride. “When I started writing my stories...I would start...about myself, and by the time I was finished, it was about my father. How this happened I do not know,” (191). But then I see it as her father was the Christopher Columbus of the family, so he has every right to have a place in every single chapter of her memoir. Also, she did say that she was very observant as a child and would mostly be in the background; that is possibly why he made it in every chapter.

On page 203, Firoozeh states that “The Ham Amendment” was the soul of her book. Why do you guys think she considers it that?

Ashley A said...

Post 2 B

Vanessa commented on the cultural differences amongst Iranians and Americans and then she continued by noting the emphasis placed on the importance of family. I think both of these ideas interlink because I too noticed how much Firoozeh valued her family and at the same time, the differences between the Iranian and American cultures made each family member value one another even more. The Dumas family’s transition into American culture was far from easy, forcing them all to rely on each other more and although Firoozeh did not like acting as a translator for her mother, it caused them to spend more time with each other and her mother appreciated her company more because without Firoozeh, she would not have been able to accomplish as much as she did. The same is true with Firoozeh on her first day of school in America when her mother accompanied her to school and although together they didn’t know much English, the simple fact that her mother was sitting right next to her, probably made Firoozeh feel more comfortable and allowed things to progress much easier.

In response to Vanessa’s question about Firoozeh and Francois’ relationship, I thought they were compatible for one another. I previously stated how surprised I was that after some consideration Firoozeh’s parents were able to accept her decision, and once again their family unity prevails because regardless of her husband’s nationality in the end, her parents only wanted her to be happy and that probably meant more to Firoozeh than anything. I also thought it was sweet how so many of her family members and friends of her family were in attendance at the weeding because it showed that they were all willing to put aside their differences and support Firoozeh. Francois’ family, however, I felt were rude and unable to look beyond their differences to make Francois happy. But Frioozeh said they eventually lost contact with his family and resultantly, I think that was the best decision for their family because they would have just caused more problems and stress on their marriage.

Vanessa G. said...

Post 1 (b)

Hey Ashley,
I couldn't of said it better than you Ashley about America being the land where anyone could turn into an important person. However, I did not find it stereotypical mainly because foreigners who have not yet experienced the wonders America has to offer would believe Kazem's philosophy. But I guess we can't really blame him for thinking this because the opportunities in America probably aren't offered in Iran because my parents thought the same thing until they discovered the burdens of bills. I also agree with you about Firoozeh's comment about America was a place where she could buy more clothes for her Barbie doll, but I admit that “Bar-B-Q” by Sandra Cisneros did not come to mind until after I read your analysis. The girl in Cisneros's short story reminds me of Firoozeh because both wanted dolls and accessories but in the end it came down to being less materialistic and content with her current possessions.

To your question about the teacher's actions being uncalled for, I too believe that they were uncalled for. Reading this passage, this is what came to mind: A foreigner is asking for directions but cannot speak English clearly. So an ignorant person “dutifully” believes that the foreigner will understand better if he shouts the directions like the way a...caveman...perhaps would speak. I hope that makes sense. That is how I feel the teacher indirectly treated Firoozeh and her mother [Did anyone notice that Firoozeh never once mentioned her mother's name? Why is that?]. She could have easily orally introduced Firoozeh and pointed out Iran on the map instead of making her mother, knowing that she does not speak English well.

I, too found it wonderful that Firoozeh's family were able to come to America to fulfill their dreams. Also, I wondered of the difficulties of dropping one's dreams in exchange for marriage like Ashley. I'm not sure what I would do if I were in that situation, especially at such a young age. Considering that she wrote a memoir, I'm assuming that she becomes a witty and successful writer when she grows older.

Ashley A said...

Post 3 B

In response to Vanessa’s question about whether or not Firoozeh’s mother was upset with her decision not to marry an Iranian man, I really don’t think she was upset because of Firoozeh’s comment, “my parents did like Francois, not because of his appetite for Persian food, but because he was kind. And because I was in love with him.” (143) Vanessa, the quote you noted about her mother wanting her to marry an Iranian doctor I feel was just a standard her mother established. Nearly every mother wants their children to grow up and become stable in both finances and happiness, so I didn’t see her mother’s desires as a disappointment if not accomplished and judging by their strong family ideals, resultantly I feel as if her mother just wanted Firoozeh to be happy with any man she married. In addition, Francois appeared to be a very kind person, seeing as how he was willing to eat a ton of food he normally would not have eaten solely because “…[he]…knew Middle Easterners loved to feed people and …[he]…wanted to make a good impression on …[her]… parents, ” (143) and any person who is willing to go out of their way to make others feel comfortable, probably possess many of the characteristics Firoozeh’s parents want her to find in a companion, especially since they know first hand how difficult it was for them to be accepted by others when they first came to the U.S.

In response to Vanessa’s second question as to why Firoozeh has The Ham Amendment as the core of her book, I guess that this chapter embodies the idea of breaking stereotypes and barriers that hold people back from getting to know people of various cultures, races, and religions. Kazem’s favorite food is ham and the belief is that Muslims don’t eat pork; Kazem informed Firoozeh that “…the Prophet Muhammade forbade ham…because people didn’t know how to cook it properly and many people became sick as a result of eating it. The Prophet, who was a kind and gentle man, wanted to protect people from harm, so he did what made sense as the time.” (86) Regardless if this is true or not, by Kazem’s willingness to try different things displays a change in the beliefs of a typical Iranian. This chapter shows how not all Iranians think and act alike, leading to how they should not all be judged and mistreated because of the actions of a few.

Jenny L said...

Post 1 Part A

Hi Guys!

Before reading this memoir, my expectations for it was much like those of the ones I had held for Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir about the struggles faced because of cultural differences and the experiences one face under oppression. However, I was pleasantly surprise at the different tone Funny in Farsi possessed all together. Unlike Reading Lolita in Tehran, the tone is less serious and more light hearted, and unquestionably humorous. Firoozeh Dumas, having moved to America at a young age, takes on an innocent view of the changes between the two worlds as she transitions from a traditional country to a foreign one with a language at first incomprehensible.

Her experience first at Leffingwell Elementary school captures the anguish, the anxiety, and the embarrassment many immigrants or new students may face. However, she approaches the dreadful experience with a sense of humor that reflects her light hearted take on life. She does not pain over the experiences of attending the first day of school with her mother but rather communicated through the language of smiles. Lost and unable to speak the language, “[they] smiled even more broadly” as they struggle to communicate with others. Dumas touches upon the barriers that exist because of different languages and resolves that conflict with the idea that a simple gesture is understood in all languages. With a foreign name such as Firoozeh and the inability to communicate, she still manages to learn and translate for her mother. Her experience as an immigrant child struggling to fit in, with growing stereotype and racism against her and her family, is an experience, unfortunately felt and shared by many immigrants. The unknown is what many fear most, and in not knowing, the only way to counter that fear is by grouping together against it. In Firoozeh’s case, many people have never heard of Iran, and find the language and culture odd because it is different from America’s. This difference is only intensified during the Iranian Revolution. Though Dumas speaks of her childhood in America with humor it is inevitable that behind the humor is more serious issues that demonstrates the judgment and the criticism faced by immigrants who innocently takes the blame for actions not done by them but by someone with their same race. This unfair treatment and generalization characterizes certain parts of Dumas’s childhood and makes readers see the injustice.

On a lighter note, as a foreigner, Dumas presents a hilarious commentary on the effects of American consumerism as she demonstrates the addictive and luring aspects of advertisements. I find that Dumas continually brings in issues with a sense of humor, making life seem less difficult and even amusing. As she sees the impacts of American fast food first hand in her uncle, who tried “every high grease-approach to cooking…realized that somehow none of the clothes in his suitcase fit him” (26-27) she comments on the unsuspecting people who fall victim to the many temptations in America. Through his many attempts at dieting, from a scuba diving outfit, to a stomach girdle, Dumas ridicules the ineffectiveness of products preying on the hopeful to lose weight. Her experience with infomercials and the seeming miracle each product is able to produce sarcastically proves the fact that the advertisements, at 3 easy payments of $19.95 is far from being miracle workers but, rather advertises to the gullible.

Each chapter of Dumas’s memoir can in fact stand alone as individual personal essays that each embodies an experience of living life as a foreigner in a foreign country. From her first days of school at Leffingwell Elementary School to her hilarious yet terrifying experience at the classic America theme park, Disneyland, Dumas provides a fresh perspective on ideas and cultures we may have viewed as “normal.”

Jenny L said...

Hey Ashley,

I agree with you that a prevailing theme in the life of Firoozeh is the family unity that bonds them in times of hardship and in times of celebration. Living in a foreign country, her family has provided a support system that understands and encourages each other when the prevailing view of Iranians is that of an image of a criminal as a result of the American hostage situation in Iran. In reading about her family and how involved they all manage to be in each other’s lives, I feel a bit jealous because as she touches upon the importance of family, it is all too normal for the modern family nowadays to lack that family unity. In presenting the value of family unity, do you guys believe that Dumas is in some way critiquing the changing definitions of families that exists now?

The language barrier that you mention is a common problem for many immigrants. All too often immigrants arrive without knowing a word of English and find themselves in a new country with no spoken form of communication to guide them. Having to translate for my parents throughout my childhood, everything from school notices to inquiries about household bills, I can completely relate to Firoozeh and her family’s struggle to assimilate into American culture. As you have stated, kind gestures, as Dumas demonstrates, is not restricted to certain languages but can be understood by all. Upon arrival, Dumas and her family experiences the generosity of kind Americans but also encounters ones that only associate them with the crimes that one has committed. It is through this example of kindness as well as cruelty that readers can see that there is no way to generalize any race or groups solely by the actions of one. She cannot determine that all Americans are kind or are cruel, just as others should not associate Dumas and her family with the actions of others just because they are Iranian as well.

I’m glad that you mentioned the “identity battle” that exists not only in Dumas’s memoir but in the lives of immigrants as well. When is the line crossed between accepting American culture, and leaving behind one’s own custom as sacrifice to fit in? As you have mentioned, Dumas and her family has found on several occasions, that by admitting that they are Turkish or Russian, it is an easier alternative than to face judgments and racism if were to reveal their true identity. In denying their race, it can be viewed as a form of survival in America, which leads to the question that in a land deemed as “The Melting Pot” are immigrants expected to contribute to the melting pot or be consumed by it?

As to your question, I would like to say that I would not give up my identity to make an easier transition in living life in America, but there are certain situations such as peers making fun of your foreign name, not eating the same food, or not dressing the same way that forces one to conform. In such a way, it seems as though there is always a force pushing one to conform. This force, as Dumas demonstrates has the power to make one question even the most certain aspects of one’s life and identity.

Jenny L said...

The previous post is Post 1 Part B

Jenny L said...

Post 2 Part B

Hi Vanessa,

I haven’t read many humorous novels prior to Funny in Farsi, but like you I find Dumas’s memoir to be quite hilarious. I believe that its humor is especially funny because it is so relatable to all. From the incidents at Disneyland, a classic American family vacation, to the all you can eat buffets in Las Vegas, and even the broken English that her mother speaks, coming from an immigrant family myself, her experiences seem all too familiar.

Also, having read Reading Lolita in Tehran, it provides a sort of background to the generation of not Dumas but to her parents. I find that the transition from the more serious Lolita to the more light hearted Farsi is a great one because it allows us to view the Iranian Revolution and life of Middle Eastern women not only in two different locations but from two different generations as well. In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Nafisi speaks of the oppression of women by society and the lost of identity each faces, and ironically, in Funny in Farsi, Dumas faces a sort of oppression of her own, but not because she is a woman but because she is Iranian in America. Though progress has been made from the generation of Nafisi to Dumas, it is evident that the oppression and injustice instilled upon women of Dumas’s mother’s generation has been carried on to the younger generations. Dumas’s mother, “like most women of her generation, had been only briefly educated. In her era, a girl’s sole purpose in life was to find a husband. Having an education ranked far below more desirable attributes such as the ability to serve tea or prepare baklava.” (5) Dumas’s mother’s lack of education leaves her restricted in the answers she is able to provide to Dumas. It is interesting to see the difference in expectations of a Middle Eastern woman from one generation to the next. Dumas does not experience the inferior treatment of women, and is in fact granted the privilege to obtain an education as an equal to males, but she is faced with a racism that proves to be just as challenging and unjust. As you have mentioned, the Iranian Revolution is also spoken of by Dumas, however from an entire different point of view. While Nafisi experiences the Revolution first hand in Tehran, Dumas bears the ramifications through the racist remarks and unfair treatments she receives.

On another note, I agree with you also that Dumas’s father Kazhem is a very likeable, and almost familiar character that exudes humor in all actions that Dumas recalls from her childhood. It is evident that Kazhem plays a significant role in the upbringing of Dumas. He unlike many male figures of the previous Middle Eastern generations is not sexist and has great expectations for his daughter to receive and education. Like Dumas, Kazhem himself is a very relatable character in that his actions are all based on his love for his family. Kazhem seems to be very influential to Dumas’s humor as well. When asked “Have you always been funny?” (202), Dumas immediately responds that “[Her] father is the absolute funniest person [she] has ever known. [She] has never felt that [she] was funny, because compared to him few people are.” (202)

Jenny L said...

Post 3 Part B

Hi Ashley,

I find your Post 4 Part A to be a very strong and insightful statement against the “discrimination and unequal treatment” towards Dumas and her family. The incident at Washington D.C., as you have mentioned, is also one of the more serious personal stories Dumas includes in her memoir and it is also a story that demonstrates the horrors that exist when racism reaches its height. The actions that people are capable of committing under hatred are so horrible that it leaves one questioning the existence of morals. In addition to the injustice Dumas and her family faces at Washington D.C. in which their lives were risked to show respects toward their national leader, her father Kazem also faces discrimination in his employment. It did not matter that ever since the “age of seventeen, [her] father began working for…the National Iranian Oil Company…[and] worked his way up the corporate ladder…the Iranian Revolution...” (116) still manages to take away all his years of dedication and hard work. Though he is able to find a new job, when “a group of Americans in Tehran were taken hostage in the American embassy… [Her] father was laid off.” (117)

I agree with your idea that discrimination “steam from the fact that people are just uneducated about other religions and races” but I also believe that it exists because many are afraid of accepting ideas that are out of the “norm” and may then be deemed as unacceptable or even immoral. The force of conformity seems to be another motivation towards discrimination. People who do not conform to the standards of society are more often than not cast aside and looked down upon. Therefore, like Dumas and her family, many people facing discrimination have no choice but to give up their true identity and take on one that is acceptable. Though when writing about the inevitability of the lure of conforming to the ways of society, there seems to be no one way to avoid it, or even rise above it for, it is the horrible way of survival in many societies. Just as Nafisi states in her memoir, that the key to understanding and appreciating literature is through empathy, to avoid discrimination and racism, this same sense of empathy is necessary.

I also, really enjoyed reading this novel and appreciates that Dumas presents her life experiences, though some not as glorious as others, with a sense of humor. On the topic of her marriage to Francois, I also believe it is a pivotal moment in which it is clear that the views of past generations have been left behind as Dumas’s parents accept an interracial marriage. They look past the racial divide and see only the love that exists between the couple.

Ashley A said...

Post 4 B

Such as Jenny pointed out, one would expect this memoir to discuss the trials and tribulations of Firoozeh as she and her family adapt to American life, although this is the core subject of many topics, she also adds a witty and light-hearted sense of humor to many of her situations. I see this quality of Firoozeh as an amazing characteristic because she did not allow negative people to stop her from accomplishing her goals of attending a university or marrying a person, regardless of his race. Firoozeh in a way is an inspiration to not only Iranians and other immigrants who desire to come to America with the hopes of creating a better life, but she inspires all of those who dream to do anything incredible, despite the odds they are faced with. Her strength, kindness, and good heart, prevails in numerous chapters of the memoir, which added to the personal and relatable tone she established between herself and the readers.

Seeing the positive side to any situation is evident in the chapter Jenny noted when Firoozeh first attended Leffingwell Elementary School. The quote you pulled, “[they] smiled even more broadly” embodies the fact that although they were embarrassed, they found it within themselves to keep a smile on their faces that alluded, at least to the students and teacher, that everything was fine. Although their smiles, at the time were not very sincere, its great how years later Firoozeh is able to reflect on that moment and laugh about, I think that exemplifies her strong willed qualities because like I said, she never let any of these mishaps defer her from accomplishing her dreams. In fact, at some points in the memoir, I wondered how a non-foreigners would react and I don’t think many would have been able to handle themselves as well as Firoozeh did during numerous situations.

Jenny also noted the time when Firoozeh’s uncle wanted to lose weight before going back to Iran and how he tried almost every antidote other than the one that would truly allow him to lose weight — exercise! In a way, I felt this and a few other occasions in the book, made fun of American ways of life and how many foreigners think that Americans try to take the easy way out of accomplishing a task, rather than working hard. However, it also showed how these quick schemes rarely work efficiently and the light-hearted tone taken in this chapter allowed everyone to just laugh it off and not become offended by some of the stereotypes brought up in the memoir. In all, Firoozeh would always add slight humor to situations, teaching the readers to simple laugh at any situation and to not allow negative things or people hinder their dreams.

R. Gallagher said...

I've been really enjoying the depth of insight in your posts--I just finished reading / grading the Reading Lolita in Tehran posts and have skimmed this and am excited to read these as well. Keep up the hard work, ladies. You have a good group here.

Vanessa G. said...

Post 2 (b)

Hello Jenny.

It's funny how we both held the same expectations about Funny in Farsi to Reading Lolita in Tehran. Actually, to be honest, I don't really know what I expected because the memoir is based on family humor and I assumed political conflict in Iran would somehow intertwine with her work, elaborating in at least half of her novel, but I think I mentioned this before, I didn't find any. Firoozeh Dumas dedicated only one chapter on the violent protest held in Washington D.C. and the rest of her novel was based on her life. But I'm relieved that we were given the opportunity to read a novel on the more humorous side, yet at the same time, placed in the realities of Dumas's—Iran. But then again, I can't help but say that Reading Lolita in Tehran gave me a biased opinion of Iran and how the country functions because Nafisi focused quite a bit on the gender struggles of Muslim women and of their limitations of rights. What was I suppose to take from that? But, my point is that Dumas provided me with a different view of a wonderful country as Iran and how people are able to live at peace at a time where they could stroll around town without the “chador” and dress like “Elizabeth Taylor”. I also agree with your suggestion of Dumas's tone in her memoir as being more light hearted.

I'm not sure if I agree with you though when you say that Firoozeh as a young child at Leffingwell Elementary School did not pain over her first experience on the day she attended with her mother. Yes, she did take it with smiles but I feel as if it were a smile hiding the embarrassment she must feel, especially towards her mother since her mother was not able to comprehend the teacher in the classroom. “I was especially mad at my mother, because she had negated the positive impression I had made previously by reciting the color wheel. I decided that starting the next day, she would have to say home,” (6). The color wheel that she recited was her showing the teacher that she was able to speak some English. Also before this, she states, “Now all the students stared at us, not just because I had come to school with my mother, not because we couldn't speak their language, but because we were stupid,” (6). Therefore, I would assume that her first day of school did leave a lasting impression on her and obviously think twice about taking her mother along to school with her. She sounded angry to me...but then I see why you believe she took it light heartedly because as a young girl, she made a joke out of the situation, but I believe it was just a ploy to add humor to the situation.

Though this novel took place during the 1970s and on, hatred against different races was unfortunately spreading, especially for the Iranians, just as you stated, Jenny. I also agree that other people shun others mainly because the people of that person's race had done something terrible, and automatically, they are categorized with them. This still goes on today, even after thirty plus years and will continue to occur—especially after September 11, 2001, where all Muslims were looked as possible terrorists or threats to this country. People grouped these people only because others of their race had committed a wrong against the country they happen to live in and yes, it is shared by many immigrants. Anything humankind find different, they either respect it because they don't understand it or they don't respect it at all because they think they understand it. It's the way the world works, unfortunately. But, again, Firoozeh provides with a great laugh that yes, they are different, and yes, her family's experiences are comical, but at the same time, can relate to what the readers even have gone through.

Vanessa G. said...

Post 3 (b)

Hello again!

Ashley, I agree on your statement that the discrimination and unequal treatment towards Firoozeh's family were continuous throughout the novel. I also find the chapter based on the Shah and the trip to Washington D.C. to be extremely significant. This was the chapter that exemplified the cultural differences between the Muslim leftist activists and the secular Muslims, like Firoozeh's family. Kazem, her father, was so confident that the visiting Muslims were on the other side of the street and that the family was out of harm's reach, but he was wrong! “Just as Shah was about to make his appearance, all of his supporters were stampeded by angry, screaming protesters, which caused everyone to flee a lawn that was “…suddenly covered with bloody and injured Iranians.”(113) As you quoted from this chapter, obviously this event left a bloody mess and I believe later on in the section the family encountered hospitalized victims asking of their whereabouts during the uproar. I don't know how I would respond let alone face the people that were drastically injured in the protest. The same thought also crossed my mind about the police officer on the horse. His job is to “serve and protect” and he was doing nothing of that sort. It's as if his eyes were blinded by the sprays of blood and flesh being torn off the body's of the people and instead saw a green meadow with blooming flowers? It was just unnecessary.

I also agree that the idea of unequal treatment rises from the ignorance of people about other races and diverse backgrounds that they may encounter in their lifetime and also do not take the time to educate themselves on the people around them. You also mentioned Brooke Shields and how Firoozeh and her mother envied her and wished they could be her because of the way she was portrayed on television. But what phases me is that Firoozeh's father was rich in Iran because of the petroleum company he worked at. How are the riches in America different from the riches in Iran? I suppose its the cultural differences again.

Just as you pointed out, I found Firoozeh marrying Francois to be an enormous surprise, mainly because they seemed so different on the outside, Catholic verses Muslim. I also wondered how her parents would react because I know it is tradition for the father of the girl to choose a suitable husband for his daughter. But such was not the case for Firoozeh. She followed her heart and “dated” Francois, an act not known or practiced in Iran. But, in the end, her parents supported the marriage, contrary to what I predicted. I also wondered what this would have resulted in if it were to take place in Reading Lolita in Tehran. I don't think it would even be looked upon, instead, automatically dismissed. I like your conclusion that acceptance and kindness played a key role in her marriage, her life, and from her family to be able to pursue one another's dreams and also to adapt to American culture.

Your question and comment based on the diets of others was funny. I feel as if, for example, ordering a jumbo popcorn with ten thousand calories of consumption, with a side of Diet Coke is part of American life. It's as if the Diet Coke makes up for eating the enormous bag of popcorn and also possibly for image. “Wow, she orders a giant popcorn—but wait! She has a side of Diet Coke. She knows what she's doing”. I think it's just the way people feel or want themselves to feel.

Jenny L said...

Hi again!

While reading Funny in Farsi, I can’t help but constantly relate myself to the situations and experiences Dumas faces. From being a translator for her mother to facing cultural friction to trying to find the balance between embracing the culture of the new country while not leaving behind old traditions, Dumas exemplifies both the struggles and joys of being an immigrant. Much like new kids in school, Dumas and her family at first struggles with an unfamiliar culture that leaves them as outcasts to society.

More and more, Dumas shows a sense of homesickness as she compares the life she once had in Iran with the life she lives in America. As Dumas reminisces about her family vacations of “going to the Caspian Sea” (53) and compares it to the overly ornate Las Vegas it is evident that the buffets that are “all for $3.99” (53) , Las Vegas lacks in comparison to “lush scenery offered.” (53) Evidently Dumas slowly discovers that the overrated “American Dream” is far from the high promises it held. She lives in a land where some judge her not by her achievements but by her race, by her accent, but not by her contributions, and by her family’s appearance, rather by their actions. In reading Dumas’s past in Iran compared to her present in America, I wonder if it is worth leaving family and home behind to pursue opportunities while facing criticism and racism.

A particular chapter in Dumas’s memoir entitled “The “F” Word” captures the superficial quality of conforming. She mentions the names of her cousin “Farbod, [which] means “Greatness”” and her brother’s which is Arash.” (62) to demonstrate the different or lack of meaning each word may hold in another language. In English, the names sound different and even funny, but in Persian, each name holds a significant meaning. The difference in languages leads to a lack of understanding of cultures which in turn leads Dumas to question whether “having a foreign name in this land of Joes and Marys is a pain…” (63) I find that a name greatly contributes to one’s identity and it is enlightening to see the complications that people with unique names must undergo. Such linguistically challenging names often lead one to take on the mentality of “I’m Not Going to Talk to You Because I Cannot Possibly Learn Your Name and I Just Don’t Want to Have to Ask You Again and Again Because You’ll Think I’m Dumb or You Might Get Upset or Something.” (63) I believe that the individuality that comes with a unique name must not be avoided but embraced, but often times I can see Dumas’s point in wanting to change her name to spare herself the explanation of the pronunciation and the butchering of it. Can you imagine feeling self conscious about your own name? Sadly, as Dumas points out, by adding “”Julie” [a “normal” American name] to her resume…job offers started coming in.” (65) She points out the discrimination that exists against races and shows the severity to which this hatred reaches in which, even names holding cultural heritage can be discriminated against. Coming from a culture in which names are too often viewed a funny in the English language but where in fact each character holds a significant meaning or sentiment, I understand why Dumas sees “Julie” as a more convenient alternative to the name of Firoozeh but I also believe that it is such a name the separates one individual from another. Conforming to the norm is a convenient way to become a part of society, but holding on to one’s identity despite its oddities is a way to rise above social standards.

Jenny L said...

Previous Post: Post 2 Part A

Vanessa G. said...

Post 4 (b)

Hi Jenny!

I definitely see what you mean about leaving behind old traditions while at the same time, trying to embrace a new culture completely foreign from one’s own. I can’t really say that I know how it feels to be an immigrant that arrived to the United States at that time because though I was not born here, I know others from my country that experience the same things; from someone speaking to you and just nodding not because you understand, but because you feel the need to respond somehow. Some adapt faster than others while others don’t. Firoozeh was one of who adapted in the “betweens”. She was not accepted for who she was because students would constantly taunt her for her differences, especially her name. “To strengthen my decision to add an American name, I had just finished fifth grade in Whittier, where all the kids incessantly called me “Ferocious,” (63). I suppose this was the last straw that encouraged Firoozeh’s desire to change her name into temporary “Julie”. It is difficult to live in a country where everything is different and things aren’t really what they seem, like “hot dogs” and “catfish”. But, I appreciate Firoozeh for the fact that she went back to her former name Firoozeh because she did not feel the same way as Julie.

On your comment about Firoozeh’s homesickness of Iran, I agree with you, but at the same time, I wouldn’t really call it homesickness only because as you quoted her vacations to Las Vegas—they were only ruined because of her father’s compulsive liking of this place, constantly visiting the same places over and over again. I would assume she would get tired of it. But I see what you mean because Firoozeh gains more comfort from her native country Iran where she can be herself and not have to worry about what others thought of her. Jenny, you also commented on whether or not it was worth Firoozeh’s family leaving behind their home and their relatives. In the beginning of the novel, her father believes that “…America was a place where anyone, no matter how humble his background, could become an important person…It was the Promised Land,” (4). The tone in her father’s assertion increases the notion that opportunities found in America might not be found in Iran, especially because “…my mother, like most of her generation, had been only briefly educated. In her era, a girl’s sole purpose in life was to find a husband,” (5). Firoozeh’s father probably didn’t want her to face the same limitations that his wife had experienced. Pursuing one’s dreams is not an easy task because there will be bumps in the road and I think her father knew that, especially because they were foreigners in the United States, so Kazem had to have expected some type of discrimination.

The way you described the F Word Chapter in Funny in Farsi was agreeable. Your comment on the lack of understanding of cultures leads to Dumas questioning that having a foreign name is a pain reminds me of the comment I left about Ashley’s post because it all comes down to ignorance of not having the chance to learn of one’s culture or not caring to at all. I also agree with you that a name contributes to the person’s identity. I was just as surprised as you were when as soon as Firoozeh changed her name to Julie, job applications were coming by the dozens. It’s not only people in our community but also people abroad that possess the same ignorance towards different cultures.

Jenny L said...

Post 3 Part A

Being that it’s almost Christmas, I find the story that Dumas shares about her experience of the commercialized version of an American Christmas to be both humorous and insightful. Being a foreigner and also from a different religion, Christmas, a socially acceptable holiday and a quite popular one at that leaves “a Muslim [like Dumas]…out of all Christmas festivities.” (104) Again cultural differences are seen between American and Iran in which the significance of Christmas is not equally shared by Dumas and her family who view Nowruz, as “the biggest holiday” (105) instead. Being that “in America , Christmas is the king of all holidays…to be left out of [it] is the ultimate minority experience.” (107) Her experience leads me to question whether it is necessary to celebrate American holidays in order to become a true “American”. It seems hard to embrace ones own heritage and traditions in a culture where “your national holiday falls somewhere between soccer practice and the dentist appointment.” (107) Dumas shows through her comparison of Nowruz to Christmas that they are both essentially the same, both holidays bring together families, shares joy, and invokes a sense of excitement that can not be associated with anything else but the festivities that arrive with the coming of each date. Whether it is Christmas, Nowruz, or any other significant holidays in foreign countries the sentiment and significance behind each can be understood in all languages and all cultures, because it is this shared familiarity associated with each celebration that creates and understanding and acceptance of cultures, different of similar.

Though cultural distinctions exist, Firoozeh proves though her marriage that the combining and the understanding of both can be achieved. In her marriage to Francois, it can be seen that as a new generation of Iranian women living in America, Dumas is not restricted to the standards placed upon her ancestors and is able to marry a man of her choice. Her mother having no say in her marriage to her father shows the lack of freedom a woman use to have concerning her future. However, Dumas in many ways represent the new, more modern, and more powerful generation, able to (as simple as it may seem) marry the one she loves. Though Iranian culture sill inevitably plays a role in her marriage, it is the cultural richness that benefits and not take away from her happiness. Traditions hold a rich history, though some have been unfair such as the arranged marriages, some like the “slaughtering [of] a lamb” (152)proves to be a tradition that though may seem irrational to other cultures is one that holds much significance in Iranian culture.

In writing her memoir, I find that Dumas speaks of not only “growing up Iranian in America” but also of the joys and the trials of being a Middle Eastern woman making otherwise bitter situations into stories of triumph. She overcomes the obstacles of the racism that is present in her life and is successful in incorporating American culture as a part of her identity and yet still remain true to her roots.