It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

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.it-aint-so-awful-falafel

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!  

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Somewhere Among

Somewhere Among

By Annie Donerth-Chikamatsu

New York: Atheum Books for Young Readers, 2016.

Grades 6 and Up    Pages 433

This is the story of Ema, told in verse. She is the daughter of an American mom and Japanese father. There is a lot going on in this story maybe too much for the younger readers. donwerth-chikamatsu

 Ema’s mom is expecting but has miscarried in the past and is now on bedrest at the childhood home of her father.  Ema is binational, bilingual and bicultural. But being between two very different countries and cultures is very difficult for 11 year old Ema. She often talks of the difference between the grandparents—the ones from California are loving and giving and the ones from Japan who are very stoic, strict and simple.  The lifestyles couldn’t be any farther apart.  As Ema tries to make sense of her world—her mom’s difficult pregnancy, the events of 9/11, the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the current sinking of a Japanese ship, being the new kid at school and being bullied– she tries to blend the two cultures together to understand the tragic events.  Although, I think there was way too much going on in this book—I enjoyed the journey.  Experiencing the Japanese holidays, the cultural differences, family structure and education helped me to appreciate how difficult it is to be different and to be more understanding of those who are culturally trying to fit in.

 

The Turtle of Oman

The Turtle of Oman: A Novel

By Namomi Shibab Nye

New York: Greenwillow Press, 2014.

Grades 4 and up 299 Pages

So during the Christmas Holiday I spent visiting my beautiful daughter in San Antonio, Texas. Any trip is not complete without a stop at a bookstore. I found this lovely book written by a local author, from San Antonio.

A young boy from Oman is preparing to come to the United States with his parents as they both get their masters degrees from a college in Michigan. Oman is in the Middle East—and sad to say that is about all I know about this country. But through the writing in this lovely story I can picture what life must be like.516M4hIB1eL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It is a simple country, with simple homes and a simple lifestyle. Aref is seeing his father off to the airport when the story opens and next week Aref and his mother will follow. So now it is time for Aref to pack his belongings as they will be gone for three years. His aunt, uncle and two cousins will be moving in to his house while they are gone. Aref is struggling with the move—leaving his cat, his room, his school and most of all this grandfather, Sidi. Aref is angry and refusing to pack. Then Siti come to take him on some final adventures around Oman—helping him to create memories that he can take with him and gently encourages him to look forward to his new big adventure to Michigan.

You will go to a desert camp and pass camels, to the sea to fish and to the beach to see where the Turtles of Oman hatch, go to sea and one day come back home.

A lovely story that allows one to travel somewhere else without leaving home.