It Ain't So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

This book is set in America in the late 1970's at the time of the Iranian revolution. It is brilliantly written, semi autobiographical, historical fiction.  It Ain't So Awful Falafel both entertains and educates. The interspersed laugh out loud humour throughout just helps to make you fall in love with these characters and this family.  

Cindy (Zomorod) Yousefzadeh is someone you will wish you had as a neighbour. Her father is an engineer working for an American oil firm with ties to Iran. Her mother is isolated because she doesn't speak English. The family have just moved to Newport Beach in California where Zomorod, wanting desperately to be more American, has decided to rename herself as Cindy. The first person she meets is also Cindy (referred to as Original Cindy). Original Cindy turns out to be a horse crazed, self centred egotist. The two of them spend the summer together, but once it is over, Original Cindy wants nothing to do with our Cindy.

Luckily, once school starts, Cindy makes a number of real friends in Carolyn, Rachel, and Howie. I appreciate this multicultural mix of friends who according to Dumas, are mostly real. They do the usual girl things that girls did in those days, swim, read, and belong to Girl Guides. There is a hint of beginning romance, but it is a minor issue. 

Life is very good until Cindy's father loses his job following the hostage taking at the American Embassy in Iran. At first he tries to find a new job and sends out more than forty resumes, but after getting no responses, he, and the rest of the family, end up sinking into a kind of depression. Eventually, as their savings run out, the family makes plans to return to Iran. 

This book shows America at it's best. Sure the Yousefzadeh family has to deal with some anti Iranian sentiment, but it turns out that there are many more positive individuals supporting them. 

We need this book. It will make an excellent read aloud for making connections to and thinking critically about anti muslim sentiment in North America today. 

I remember reading and watching news reports about the Iranian revolution. Later on, my partner worked with an Iranian film maker here in Vancouver in the 1980's and 1990's. He and his partner, a gifted dancer, fled Iran to the safety of Canada. Through him we attended numerous Iranian cultural events where he would point out individuals who he claimed had blood on their hands and were connected to the Shah. We were able to learn about the different groups involved and what went on during the revolution prior to Ayatollah Khomeini taking power. When I started reading this I was worried that much of the detail would be overlooked. I had nothing to worry about. 

I can't wait to read more of Firoozeh Dumas work!

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