This week’s guest, Firoozeh Dumas, is the bestselling author of two wonderfully funny and touching memoirs, Funny in Farsi and Laughing Without an Accent. Lee Thomas, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, said of Laughing Without an Accent, “the insights are practical and lighthearted and reveal a woman who has managed to embrace both her rich past and the sometimes bizarre, sometimes wonderful, American ethos.” And both books are now out in paperback! – Meg
I was a stay-at-home for 8 years. I didn’t have baby-sitters or relatives in the area so by “stay-at-home mom” I mean there was a kid velcroed to my hip at all times. I love my kids more than anything but I was going bonkers. I desperately wanted to do something that had nothing to do with cooking, stain removal or Barney. So when my then youngest child started kindergarten, I joined a writers’ group.
Stories are all I know. I grew up with a father who is a story teller. He is magnificent. He can tell you a story about going to the grocery store to buy tomatoes and you will think, “I wish I had gone to the grocery store to buy tomatoes with him.” He’s that good. And if that weren’t enough, he’s hilarious. So naturally, I wanted to tell my stories to my kids but I decided to write mine. I didn’t have any writing experience but I was writing for my kids, so I didn’t feel any pressure.
To make a long story short, those stories became my first book, Funny in Farsi. It was really hard finding an agent. All the agents told me that since I’m Iranian, I need to write about oppression. “Oppression is in!” I was told. My problem was that I was not oppressed. I was loved and encouraged and who wants to read about that?
When Funny in Farsi was published in 2003, educators discovered it right away and now it’s used in junior high, high schools and colleges across the country. If that’s my legacy, I will die with a smile on my face! I love that students are reading a book about an Iranian family that makes them laugh out loud. Of course teachers love the book because of all the discussions that ensue. I’m just happy because kids are seeing something about Iran that will never be in the news: stories about a regular Iranian family. No oppression or hostages in sight.
One my favorites stories in my second book, Laughing Without an Accent, is about my friendship with Kathyrn Koob, a former hostage held in Iran for 444 days. We took a road trip together through Iowa a few years ago. The hostage and the humorist, an unlikely friendship for sure, but we had so much in common. We talked, we laughed, we ate rhubarb crumble and we almost got a speeding ticket. And of course it made a great story. But then again, anything can. Just ask my dad. – Firoozeh