Sacramento Public Library

Library footnotes

A conversation with librarian Cathy Crosthwaite on author Firoozeh Dumas
On Tuesday, March 7, we will host author Firoozeh Dumas in a discussion regarding immigration for our new Let’s Talk About discussion series. Her New York Times bestselling work, Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America, is an unforgettable story of identity, discovery and the power of family love that will leave you laughing.
We asked Cathy Crosthwaite, librarian and curator of the Let’s Talk About event, for her thoughts on the book.
As a librarian, why would you recommend this book to someone concerned about the current national discussion on immigration?
The book is wonderfully unique. Dumas uses humor to tell her story, which I think is needed in today’s political climate. Her family’s love of America shines through in her stories, along with the basic struggle of being uprooted from their homeland. Readers will feel the frustrations the Dumas family encountered performing simple tasks like grocery shopping, communicating with teachers and understanding basic cultural nuances.
People need to be reminded of the reality of what immigrants are experiencing, especially in today’s not-so-welcoming environment. Our discussions need to be informed and books like Funny in Farsi do this by showing us the very human side of the immigration story. 
What does the author get right about immigration in her book, Funny in Farsi?
One of the key takeaways for me was the fact that the author was able to show how the political climate based on international actions drastically impacted her experience. 
When her family came to the U.S. in the ’70s, they were welcomed by Americans. Her father had a good job and people were politely curious about their background and traditions. They returned to Iran and then came back to the U.S. in the ’80s. The Iranian Hostage crisis was fresh in the minds of Americans, and the Dumas family had a different experience than the time before. But they still saw the good in America and its people and were thankful for what the country offered.
The current immigration discussion is not a funny one. Why was this book picked for your next Let’s Talk About discussion?  
As part of the California Center for the Book’s immigration bookshelf, Funny in Farsi was chosen to head up the discussion for the next Let’s Talk About program because it does take a lighter look at what has become a very serious issue.
We are a country of immigrants. Not all stories are happy, not all are horrific. The book and the author represent a very real American experience and I believe that it is a good place from which to launch a conversation. 
You’re a natural-born citizen. What did you take from this book that might leave others who will never have the immigration experience wanting to read it?  
It really is very funny. Dumas paints a realistic picture of their family’s experience, both good and not-so-good, from her mother’s English based on “The Price is Right,” her uncle’s battle of the bulge after enjoying the wonders of fast food and her father’s joy in everything American.
I think it’s OK to be able to find humor in serious topics because for many, laughter really is the best medicine. And instead of detracting from the story or minimizing her experience, she makes it very real. And for anyone that has traveled to a foreign country without knowing the language, imagine moving there with your entire family! Perspective is a wonderful thing.

Interested in learning more about Firoozeh Dumas? Read our new Authors Uncovered series or visit
Join us in discussion with Firoozeh on Tuesday, March 7, at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria from 6-7:30 p.m. for the next installment of our new Let’s Talk About discussion series.    
Librarian Cathy Crosthwaite is on staff at Sacramento Public Library. She oversees community engagement and outreach, including the development of Let’s Talk About. 

Californians: Community Conversations about Immigration is a program of the California Center for the Book, under the auspices of the California Library Association, and is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the State Librarian.

This program is also brought to you with the support of the Persian Language Advisory Committee.

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