Title: Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad
Author: Firoozeh Dumas
Release Date: April 29, 2008
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
Laughing Without an Accent is Fizooreh Dumas’ follow-up to her first book, Funny in Farsi. Both serve as anecdotal memoirs of situations Dumas faced as an Iranian growing up in the United States and eventually marrying a Frenchman. The book covers a vast time period; the youngest story is from when she was a six-year-old girl living in Iran, the oldest from events which probably took place mere months before the book was published. The stories are in no particular order; some reference events that took place in others.
The vignettes are curious glimpses into a culture that is foreign to most Americans. For example, the first chapter of the book deals with Dumas’ attempts to have her book translated into Persian (the major language in Iran). The author was passionate about those in her home country reading her works as they were written, so she went about seeking her own translator rather than relying on the lowest common denominator. She recounts the roadblocks that were thrown in front of her, as well as how well the book was received once it was actually published in Iran. It’s a wonderful beginning to establishing a relationship with a foreign culture, rather than fearing and vilifying it.
Some of the anecdotes are not so foreign, such as parents buying gifts for their children that the children abhor. Through these stories, Dumas illustrates that while she is from a different culture, the distinctions aren’t as numerous as the similarities. That is what is important about this book, and why it is crucial that Americans read it: understanding is the beginning of acceptance. In the book, Dumas describes her family’s reaction to and treatment during the Iranian hostage crisis. She speaks of their horror at the situation and her subsequent friendship with one of the hostages. In some ways, Dumas is brave; in her own way, she is standing up for the normal, everyday Iranians who only want to live their lives in peace. At the same time, by insisting her books be published in Iran, she is showing them that Americans aren’t a people to fear. It is a phenomenal thing for one woman to do, and she does it incredibly well.
Perhaps the best element of Dumas’ work is her sense of humor. It is apparent that most of the anecdotes are intended to be humorous; she fully expects the reader to laugh along with her about the nuances of her culture. However, it is not a malicious laughter – Dumas respects and loves her background, and she is not trying to make fun of it. It is charming and affectionate, full of love and life. Both Laughing Without an Accent and Funny in Farsi are funny and sentimental without being cheesy. The vignette style makes them incredibly easy to read, and the message is equally relevant in today’s tense atmosphere: we are all different, yet we are the same.