Glimpses of shared humanity make it so hard to kill others. -From Laughing Without An Accent, page 219-
And if it’s one thing I hope we Iranians have imparted, it is the closeness of extended family, not because we all get along perfectly, but because we know that we all benefit emotionally from maintaining those ties. -From Laughing Without An Accent, page 160-
Firoozeh Dumas has written a very funny, immensely insightful memoir about growing up as an Iranian living in America. Dumas immigrated to America at the age of seven with her mother, father and brother and so retains memories of both her childhood in the small Iranian town of Abadan as well as her youth in California.
Laughing Without An Accent is Dumas’ second novel (she published Funny in Farsi in 2003 to rave reviews). It is a collection of vignettes which give the reader insight into the melding of cultures and the struggles (often humorous) of immigrants living in the United States. Her stories reflect the difference between the generations in how immigrants adapt to life in another culture – and her affectionate and hilarious reflections on her parents were some of my favorite parts of the book, such as when Dumas and her French husband host Christmas at their home in San Francisco:
My parents always buy wrapping paper on sale, paying attention only to the pretty colors. As Francois held his stack of gifts, all emblazoned with “Happy Birthday!” and “Congratulations, Graduate!” he looked a bit puzzled. A steep learning curve lay head of him. -From Laughing Without An Accent, page 97-
Dumas’ memoir strikes just the right balance between lightheartedness and reflection on deeper issues. When she shares that “the only time I felt like a complete foreigner was in college,” the reader sympathizes. Likewise, her recollections of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and how it impacted her family filled me with dismay at the prejudice towards immigrants which came about as a result of that event.
Witty, warm and compassionate – Laughing Without An Accent is a memoir worth reading.
**SPECIAL NOTE: Teachers might want to check out Firoozeh Dumas’ website where she offers a free 9-page educator’s guide to her book Funny in Farsi.