November 23, 2018
Book Report: Funny in Farsi
In Firoozeh Dumas’ book, “Funny in Farsi,” she describes the journey her and her family experienced moving from Iran to America. Firoozeh and her family learned how to adjust to a new culture, resocialization, they experienced ethnocentrism in addition to prejudice, and learned about the power of having a family.
• The first concept is culture, which is shared beliefs, values, and practices, that participants must learn (Strahan, p.6). Throughout the book, Firoozeh gives various examples of how her family learns to adapt to the United States with degrees of excitement, interest, and intimidation. Firoozeh’s father, Kazem was enthusiastic about what America had to offer. What may seem dull to the everyday American, such as Disneyland, buffets, hot dogs, and clean bathrooms were new and exciting to Kazem. Firoozeh, on the other hand, had a more balanced outlook on both American and Iranian culture. Firoozeh spent most of her childhood in America. She learned English well enough to develop the accent, she loved American television and enjoyed most of what the American culture had to offer. Since she mainly grew up with American culture, she is more comfortable within American society compared to her parents. Although Firoozeh and her family accepted American culture, they remained true to their roots, celebrating Iranian holidays and eating Iranian food. Later, Firoozeh marries a Western, Christian man continuing to mix Western and Iranian cultures together (Dumas, 146-147, 153).
• The second concept is ethnocentrism or evaluating and judging another culture based on how it compares to one’s own cultural norms (Strahan, 10). In the book, it discusses ethnocentrism and the belief or attitude that one’s own culture is better than all others. Firoozeh’s father displayed this example in chapter one, when Farsi’s father describes America as the promised land with clean bathrooms (Dumas, 4). Ethnocentrism can be so strong that when confronted with all the differences of a new culture, one may experience disorientation and frustration (Strahan p. 11). An example provided for ethnocentrism is in chapter two when Firoozeh’s mother found it easier to communicate English by having an interpreter, who was Firoozeh. She was frustrated with this because she was at an age where her parents should be guiding her, but instead, she was guiding her mother (Dumas, 10-11).
• The third concept is resocialization, the process by which old behaviors are removed and new behaviors are learned in their place. In the new environment, the old rules no longer apply. The process of resocialization is typically more stressful than normal socialization because people must unlearn behaviors that have become customary to them (Strahan, 133). Chapter two explains how Farsi’s mother and father learned English. Firoozeh’s mother learned English from watching television, while her father learned from reading. Firoozeh joked about how it would take the average American thirty minutes to buy a washing machine. However, by the time her father was done from reading each warranty, credit information, and contract, the store would be closing (Dumas, 9-10).
• The fourth concept is prejudice. Prejudice refers to the beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes someone holds about a group (Strahan, p.226). Firoozeh experiences many kinds of mild and serious prejudice as an Iranian immigrant in the United States. When she was young, her experiences were innocent. For example, her classmates would ask her about camels and the sand in Iran because those were the only thoughts children had when they thought of the middle east. However, her parents, who should have known better, also displayed signs of prejudice toward her. For instance, when they moved to America, no one in their family knew how to speak proper English. However, Firoozeh’s parents assumed she could, and they would use her as a translator. As Firoozeh grew older she and her family noticed how the prejudice against Iranians grew. Thus, the Iranian Revolution began. Their worlds turned upside down after a group of Americans were taken as hostages in Tehran which is the capital of Iran. Kazem lost his job for being from the same country and for being within the same race. Every night they watched television and there were discussions about the hostages. For 444 days, they watched, and they waited, while the hatred towards Iranians grew (Dumas, 117). In the textbook, it discusses how prejudice can be a biased thought based on flaw assumptions about a group of people (Strahan, 226, 230). That is what Firoozeh and her family experienced. Just because a certain group of people did something depraved, they received hatred just because Firoozeh and her family identified as the same race. People assumed since they were Iranian, they were just as bad as the group of people in the news, but that was untrue.
• The fifth concept is family. Firoozeh’s family structure is known as a nuclear family, referring to married parents and children as the nucleus, or core, of the group (Strahan, 150). However, her family structure also included extended family since her various cousins, nephews, and uncles come to stay with them often, despite the very little space they had. In Iranian culture, there is more of an importance of family as compared to American culture. Iranian families often tend to stick together whether it is in a small community or under the same roof. Throughout Firoozeh’s childhood, she is constantly being encouraged by her parents to get a good education. Since her Aunt Sedigeh was unable to go to college and become a doctor, her father made it a point to tell Firoozeh to obtain a degree. He says, “And you, Firoozeh, will go to a university! I don’t care if you do nothing with your college diploma, but you will have one” (Dumas, 101). Her father wants her to obtain the education his sister was denied. Firoozeh, attends U.C Berkley and has a successful college career thanks to the constant support she had from her family.
Overall Duma’s book illustrates that adjusting to a new country and a new culture is not easy. It is not easy or desirable for those who may have to cut ties with their homeland. However, if you remain open-minded, positive, and willing, it is indeed possible to create a happy new life. Duma did a great job expressing that in her novel.