Nicola Rahman English-Ms.Esmail
America has often been called “The Land of the Free”, where opportunities are like the
bounteous fish caught at sea; the catch may be large or small, may come sooner or later. Just as the
Gold Rush prompted for many miners to come about, the promising opportunities have prompted for
immigrants to pour into in America. Although this chance for a new beginning has vastly beckoned
immigrants, there are sacrifices immigrants must make along with newfound chances. Succumbing to
social alienation is one of the sacrifices that immigrants must make. In the memoir, Funny in Farsi, by
Firoozeh Dumas, and the studies of Djuro J. Vrga on Differential Associational Involvement of Successive
Ethnic Immigrations: An Indicator of Ethno-Religious Factionalism and Alienation of Immigrants, the
depths of social alienation and its influence on immigrants are reviewed. Dumas’ memoir describes the
experience of an Iranian growing up in America, whilst Vrga’s study is applied to different sociocultural
aspects of life immigrants may encounter. Cultural differences in morality, ethics, values and political
standings all play an substantial role when discussing social alienation. However, more often than so,
the Americans are the social alienators while the immigrants are the socially alienated.
Though Americans were once so to speak—immigrants, as if Americans are rotten
crops from the harvests of heritage, immigrants are the freshly picked fruits of culture and tradition, and
a batch of flawless tomatoes obviously stand out amongst the rundown veggies. Firoozeh Dumas
highlights the awkward feelings entailed with social alienation as a theme throughout the memoir.
Dumas recalls on several occasions how uneasy and disturbing it is to be singled out, “I cringed. Mrs.
Sandberg, using a combination of hand gestures, started pointing to the map and saying, “Iran? Iran?
Iran?” Clearly, Mrs. Sandberg had planned on incorporating us into the day’s lesson. I only wished she
had told us that earlier so we could have stayed home.” (Dumas 6). Merely because it was a tad
unusual to have an Iranian family join the community, Dumas’ teacher decided it would be perfectly
normal to use people of a unique heritage for the lesson as though they were show-and-tell puppets
when they are after all, people. Daily ‘encounters’ with other Americans through Dumas’ experiences
depict how the lack of geographic knowledge has further contributed to alienation and its bond with
immigrants, “ Inevitably, people would ask us where we were from, but our answer didn’t really matter.
One mention of our homeland and people would get that uncomfortable smile on their face that says, “
How nice. Where the heck is that?” (Dumas 37). Despite the seemingly minor extent of social alienation
found in Dumas’ more humorous examples, the isolation of cultures does occasionally meet with a
rather unreasonable but inevitable high tide. As the Iranian Revolution took place, the media fed its
always starving Americans with the news that Iranians had violently taken a group of Americans
hostage, “ For some reason, many Americans began to think that all Iranians, despite outward
appearances to the contrary, could at any given moment get angry and take prisoners.”(Dumas 39.) This
kind of media induced prejudice created an unsafe social environment for Iranians, ultimately forcing
them to lie about their ethnicities, “ My mother solved the problem by claiming to be from Russia or
“Torekey.” (Dumas 39.) Other than lying about one’s ethnicity, finding and keeping a job was nearly
impossible during these sorts of times, “ Even worse, with the turmoil in Iran, the value of my father’s
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