Funny in Farsi Immigration Essay

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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

pension dropped...
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