FUNNY IN FARSI

A MEMOIR OF GROWING UP IRANIAN IN AMERICA

Warm and engaging, despite some creaky prose.

Light-as-air essays about an immigrant childhood in California.

In 1972, Dumas’s father, an employee of the Iranian National Oil Company, which had landed a two-year consulting contract with an American firm, came to the US and brought along the entire family. Although the adventure in their new country begins with the author and her mother getting lost after elementary-school orientation, the Dumases rapidly embrace their new home: Las Vegas becomes their default vacation destination, and they spend every Christmas watching Bob Hope. The author has the usual problems of a stranger in a strange land—nobody can pronounce her name or has any awareness of her homeland—but Dumas tosses in some new ones as well: the communal showers at sleep-away camp (she doesn’t bathe for a week) and the disappointment when her father fails to qualify as a contestant on Bowling for Dollars. But these trials pale in comparison to the family’s difficulties during the hostage crisis. As vendors begin selling T-shirts that read “Iranians go Home,” Dumas’s father loses his job and his pension and is forced to sell all the family's belongings. After the crisis ends, he does find a new job, at half his previous salary, but nothing mars his love for his adopted country; Dumas recounts his thoughts on US citizens who shirk their civic duties: “They need to be sent for six months to a nondemocratic country. Then they'll vote.” At all times, no matter how heavy the subject matter, Dumas keeps her tone light. Even a disastrous trip to Washington, D.C., to welcome the Shah, complete with death threats from protestors, is played for laughs.

Warm and engaging, despite some creaky prose.

Pub Date: June 24, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-6040-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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