In the memoir Funny in Farsi, Firoozeh Dumas develops the importance of keeping me’s own culture through her use of characterization, plot and setting. Firoozeh came to the United States from Iran when she was seven, with a father who believed America was the Promised Land, a land of infinite wisdom, compassion, and possibilities. That’s a familiar theme for me. Three of my four grandparents moved across the globe from Russia to the melting pot of America. In the early days of their immigration, there was enormous suspicion against them. Their Jewish names and manner and their foreign accents isolated them. But the melting pot blurred the differences especially among the children, and by the second or third generation, the accents were gone, the suspicion eased, and people started to relate to each other as people. The self-effacing humor of Jewish immigrants was an important tool as they struggled to become part of their new home, and helped create a sense of bonding and strength. While Firoozeh neighbors in the United States weren’t sure how to relate to her, I had no such confusion. She took me into her confidence and I saw for myself who she was, thanks to her superb command of the English language, and her clever, ironic insights. “She’s one of us.” I thought. And even better, as a recent entrant into the melting pot, she could share her observations about contrasts between two cultures more clearly than someone limited to seeing things only from within one.
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