ENGLISH LESSON

Funny in Farsi

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In the memoir Funny in Farsi, author Firoozeh Dumas discusses her family’s journey from Iran to the United States when she was a child. In the beginning, her experiences included a lot of ‘lost in translation’ moments as her family adapted to their new surroundings. Though Dumas relays these moments in a humorist way, the first chapter demonstrates that some misunderstandings were quite embarrassing (or scary) at the time they occurred. These include getting lost on her way home from school, not being able to talk to her classmates, and getting confused at restaurants. It’s easy to relate to these incidents! But how many of us can describe them in such a funny way?

But it’s not all fun and games. In her candidness, Dumas also touches on themes related to migrants’ expectations of the U.S. (i.e. the ‘American dream’), challenges related to gender, and some the ways moving impact familial relationships. During her first day of school, for example, Dumas remarked: “I had never thought of my mother as an embarrassment, but the sight of all the kids in the school staring at us before the bell rang was enough to make me pretend I didn’t know her.” In all likelihood, her mother was just as terrified.

Not convinced? Check out how their day continued: “Mrs. Sandberg gestured to my mother to come up to the board. My mother reluctantly obeyed. I cringed. Mrs. Sandberg, using a combination of hand gestures, started pointing to the map and saying, “Iran? Iran? Iran?” Clearly, Mrs. Sandberg had planned on incorporating us into the day’s lesson. I only wished she had told us that earlier so we could have stayed home.” Being put on the spot after so much unsolicited ogling is indeed very cringe! But don’t worry, as you keep reading human-kind is redeemed by a “kind stranger” and lots of other people you’ll meet throughout the book.


Discussion Questions

  • In which ways did Dumas and her father differ in their interpretations of the United States?
  • Why did Dumas wish she and her mother could have stayed home from school?
  • How come Dumas states her father had “two left tongues” outside of his line of work?

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