Funny in Farsi, A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

December 4, 2008
By Rachel Delshad, Fort Lee, NJ

Funny in Farsi, A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America
By : Firoozeh Dumas
Bibliographic Information: Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved to America when she was seven years old. She and her family were faced with many struggles living in a country where they had both cultural and linguistic barriers

Growing up as an Iranian American is not as easy as some may think. Firoozeh Dumas made her journey to America from Iran as a child. In her book, Funny in Farsi, A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, by Firoozeh Dumas, Dumas starts her life in America, where she faces many struggles. Her enjoyment of childhood was cut short when she had to grow up and face the realities of the adult world vicariously through her parents. She also dealt with alienation because of having an ethnic name. Her cultural differences left her with the idea to change the unique qualities about herself to feel accepted. She dealt with racism in a country that she viewed as her new home. Trying to be accepted in a country where she was hated because of her ethnicity was a struggle that she and her family ultimately were able to overcome. Moreover, her incite and anecdotes of her journey portray a sense of personal growth. As she eventually grows older, she starts understanding the world around her, and she has finally accepted being an Iranian American, a struggle she had been dealing with ever since she moved to America. Moreover, her incite corresponds to the challenges many immigrants today face.

As a child in living America, Firoozeh had to leave behind much of her youth. Because her mother could not speak a word of English, Firoozeh's mother had “decided that the easiest way for her to communicate with Americans was to use [her daughter] as an interpreter. At an age when most parents are guiding their children towards independence, [her] mother was hanging on to [her] for dear life” (10). In other words, instead of her mother allowing Firoozeh to become independent and allow her to grow as a child, she has pushed her out of adolescence and into adulthood.
Moreover, the cultural differences were made apparent. Firoozeh was faced with teaching her parents English. She had continuously tried to explain to her parents the differences between English slang and Persian slang. Her father would compliment his friend's daughter by “calling her homely, he meant she would be a great housewife. When he complained about horny drivers, he was referring to their tendency to honk. And [her] parents still don't understand why teenagers want to be cool so they can be hot” (12). The author is trying to portray how she was stuck in the middle cultural of a tie that her family faced, trying to explain to her parents something they would never be understand because they were not raised in America; therefore, they lacked a certain native comprehension of the language, something Firoozeh was able to pick up.
The author makes it apparent that these cultural differences had brought an emotional barrier over her head. With an ethnic name, Firoozeh has always felt different. She said, “All of us immigrants knew that moving to America would be fraught with challenges, but none of us thought that our names would be such an obstacle” (62). In other words, the author is trying to portray the hardships of having a name that is considered different in a country where other problems are more relevant than having an ethnic name. She has portrayed to the reader that her name has created an effect of being ostracized. When Firoozeh moved to Newport Beach, she had decided since she was starting a new life that she should start it with a new name because she felt her name was “unpronounceable” or people will not talk to her because they “do not want to ask [her] again and again what her name is” (63). By changing her name, in essence she has striped herself of her identity. Living in a country that has created this uniform identity, we as a nation have made people feel the alienation to ultimately change who they are.
Not only did the author have to deal with this feeling of alienation as a child, but when she was getting married as well. Because she is Persian and intermarrying with a French man, his family did not accept her. Her husband's mother never did “accept [her] marriage; even after the birth of [their] children did not soften her” (160). In other words, no matter how assimilated one may become into a culture, some people will always consider him or her as different. However, Firoozeh's parents have grown to understand that happiness is the key to what really matters, not just ethnic compatibility. When Firoozeh told her mother that she was not going to marry an Iranian, her mother “threw aside everything she and her generation knew about marriage and entered a new world where daughters select their own husband. She became a pioneer” (144). Her mother was able to encounter this understanding because of the journey she had bestowed upon living in America, while many others are not as open minded to consider what true happiness entails. As cultures change, people grow and change. Change is innovative and a necessity enabling a nation to accept up and coming differences.
Firoozeh was also faced with incrementing hate because of her nationality. When the Iranian Revolution came around, her family was hated. People assumed that because they were from Iran they shared the same opinions as the ruler of Iran, who the rest of the world hated. During the Iranian Revolution, her father was no longer needed to work with his Iranian company, but he luckily found a job with an American firm. “As he was settling into his new job, a group of Americans in Tehran were taken hostage in the American embassy. [Firoozeh's] father was laid off” (177). The author is trying to make apparent the hate people felt toward the Iranian people as a whole. Firoozeh said, “Nobody asked our opinion of whether the hostages should have been taken, and yet every single Iranian in America was paying the price” (118). Because she was Iranian, she encounter generalized hate and alienation. Even though she was hated for her identity, she learned to channel that hate into insightful morals that have been deeply instilled within her.
Growing up with both sides of the spectrum, Firoozeh has realized that there is more to life than generalizing. She has learned to accept the differences in her life, but for her children she has decided to show them a world that she was unfortunately unable to enjoy. She said, “Francois and I plan on giving our children something more valuable [than precious gifts], the simple truth that the best way to go through life is to be a major donor of kindness” (160). In other words, living a world where Firoozeh had to struggle with alienation and hatred because of her ethnic differences, she wants her children to see that it does not matter what ethnicity you are, all that matters is that you treat people with kindness. Firoozeh has channeled the hate and alienation she felt as a child into insightful lessons to teach her children.
Living in a country so far from home has created many struggles that Firoozeh and her family have had to deal with. From their name differences, to generalized hate, people have a constructed view about what Americans should be like. The move that she and her family have bestowed upon has allowed them to change as people and become more accepting. Although they encountered much hate and alienation, they were able to find happiness in a world where they were hated. As immigrants and natives alike, we should take it into our own hands to make sure that a uniformed perception is closed minded.
As a woman with immigrant parents, this book has made me realize the impact immigration has on a family's cultures and evaluations of life. I even see in my parents the different ways they have tried to raise my siblings and me. I have always have had a distorted view on the challenges they have faced throughout their lives, but this book has opened my eyes to their struggles. They too, have bestowed upon the same journey that Firoozeh and her family had endured, and they too, have wanted nothing but happiness for their children even if that meant changing their culture. My parents have changed their names to try to fit in, they were hated for being Iranian, and they have grew up to become translators for their parents. Luckily for them, my parents had come to this country when they were old enough to have had sustained an identity of being Iranian rather than having it striped away as Firoozeh's had. They were able to keep their Iranian identity while also embrace the American culture, yet another unfortunate mishap the author could not endure. The American people are too set on uniformity that they have in essence alienated people who are different. Leaving your countries customs behind becomes a very easy thing once you leave, but there is a trick to preserving your identity that Firoozeh had unfortunately lost. Because she grew up in a time where Iranians were new to the country she felt as though she had to hide who she really was. My family however, came to America after the revolution. Even though they were disliked because of their nationality, they had an established sense of self, and they did not see a reason to hide who they were. I would recommend to Firoozeh and immigrants alike, that hiding your identity essentially portrays that you are ashamed of who you are. Immigrants should be proud of their culture and identity and no let a society construct who you are.

The author's comments:
it is important for immigrants alike,as well as people who feel as though they do not belong in a uniform society to make sure that they are not alone, and the cure to their alienation is being comfortable with who you are and accept that differences are unique.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Mar. 31 2016 at 1:02 pm
kaitlinkline BRONZE, Grand Rapids, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
This is a very good story


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