It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
By Firoozeh Dumas
New York: Clarion Books, 2016.
Grades 6 and Up. Pages 378.
This is the story of Zomorod Yousefzadeh told in first person by an eleven-year-old who is just trying to fit in, again! Zomorod is settling in from her fourth move between Iran and California in the 1970’s. She is really tired of being the new and different student; so she decides to make changes by taking an American name, Cindy. This she believes will allow her to make an easier transition into school so that each class she does not have to give the origin of her given Iranian name—which makes her stand out.
I found it delightful and humorous that Cindy wants all the American experiences she can get—food, school, camp, scouts, holidays and that her parents are wanting to maintain their Iraqi culture. No surprise that there are a lot of parental clashes! At Thanksgiving, Cindy wants to have an American Thanksgiving dinner but she compromises with her parents as they settle on cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with their dinner. As they open the can of cranberry sauce the author describes that the “sauce” does not come out of the can. They shake and shake can until all at once it plops out in one big piece—fearing that it is spoiled; they just throw away the can shaped blob.
The 1970’s are a tumultuous time in Iran and for relations with the United States. The author does a great job of helping the reader to understand the role of the oil industry, the political leadership in Iran and the Iran Hostage Crisis. The latter which causes her family much distress as her father, an oil engineer loses his job in America. Then random acts of hatred begin to occur—blaming her family on the hostage situation—subtle at first and then a dead hamster with a note to go home! Iran is in so much turmoil they cannot return home and so they are stuck in the United States with their fear, and their family and life falling apart.
Lucky for Cindy, she has a caring and compassionate friend, Carolyn that helps her to make sense of her world and those who Cindy has touched rally around the family. When Cindy tells Carolyn they are returning to Iran because they have no job and no money she and others join forces to help Cindy’s family to pick up all the broken pieces and put their life in the United States back together again!
It is a wonderful story that will make you laugh and have an appreciation for those Americans that have a different heritage from our own. They all have a story to tell!