Book Review: It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

May 18, 2016

One of my favorite comical Iranian-American writers (or perhaps I should say one of the only, but I’m not sure) is out with another book this month. Firoozeh Dumas, the best-selling author of Funny in Farsi, is at it again, but this time with a children’s/young-adult book, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel.

The book takes place in the late 1970s and follows the story of a precocious middle schooler, Zomorod who decides to go by “Cindy.” It follows her struggles and triumphs as she adjusts to life as not only the new girl, but as the new girl from a country whose name most people cannot even pronounce, Iran. (For the record, you pronounce it Ear-Ron, and not Eye-Ran.)

As if the adjustment period isn’t enough, Cindy and her family find themselves in a world of turmoil as they watch the events of the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis unfold on both their American television sets and through the stories of their family and friends back at home. In addition to their own fear and uncertainty, they face prejudice and bullying in their own community. The depiction of the hostage crisis and its rippling effects as told through the eyes of a young girl is both historically accurate and sincere. But fear not, though the subject matter is heavy, the story is told with humor and humility, and it has a happy ending.

Given today’s current events and political climate, I find this book to be extremely relevant. Much in the same way “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” gives insight into what life is like as an unmarried first-generation 20-something, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel sheds light on the young person’s immigrant experience. For me personally, I found this book to be incredibly eye-opening and empathy-inducing. My father has done a wonderful job of sharing his culture and experiences with me, but growing up in an area with multiple kabob houses and Persian grocery stores, it is very hard for me to understand what it must have been like to be here when that wasn’t the case, and not to mention always having to wear the “goodwill Ambassador” hat when your home country was on the evening news.

So, yes, I recommend this book for you and your kids. It is entertaining, and your eyes get opened a little bit wider without you even realizing it.

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