It is fun reading books before they are published. I get a privileged feeling just holding a review copy, which may be a bit silly, seeing that the publishers gave many of them away at the Public Library Association Conference in Minneapolis. Still, I was really pleased when Uma from our library offered to let me read an advanced reader's edition of Laughing Without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas, the author of Funny in Farsi. The book is due out at the end of April 2008.
In her new volume, Dumas continues to tell amusing stories about her life as an Iranian who moved to the United States as a child before the revolution of 1979. In some ways, she grew up very American, watching television, eating fast food, and going away to college. Still, because of her early years in Iran, her perspectives remain atypical. She is a sort of inside outsider, a perfect person to notice the odd aspects of American life that natives tend to take for granted.
Many of her stories are about adjusting or not adjusting to a new culture. She features her own experiences, as well as those of her parents and her husband, who is French. Each story is well-crafted and compelling, and she makes readers feel as though they too are immigrants trying to sort out what to do in unfamiliar situations. I think my favorite story may have been her telling of her uncle's funeral at which the family traded the usual Iranian mourning customs for eulogies remembering the uncle's humorous traits; Dumas could hardly believe the family would accept this break with tradition but they did. She makes a point about how America has changed her family. She also tells how Iranians and other immigrants have changed America.
Most public libraries are going to want Dumas's new book. It should be very popular with memoir readers. It should also be popular with librarians, whom she compliments several times.
Dumas, Firoozeh. Laughing Without an Accent. Villard, 2008. ISBN 9780345499561.