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It Ain't So Awful, Falafel
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that It Ain't So Awful, Falafel is about an immigrant family from Iran that faces both kindness and cruel harassment amid the drama of the Iran hostage crisis that began in 1979. Author Firoozeh Dumas (Funny in Farsi) draws on her experience growing up in California during that time, outlining some of the pivotal moments of the Iranian revolution and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and describing how it all affected American politics and culture. She describes some of the violence in Iran, poignantly showing how distressing it was for people living in the United States who were worried about friends and family back in Iran. Not only are the bullies outnumbered by upstanders in this story, but characters who engage in mean or petty behavior are presented with some complexity and insight.
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What's the story?
When her family moves to Newport Beach, California, right before she starts sixth grade, Zomorod is so desperate to fit in that she changes her name to Cindy. She's embarrassed by her Iranian family: Her depressed mother won't learn English and doesn't grasp American social etiquette, her engineer dad talks only about oil in thickly accented English, and her family doesn't celebrate American holidays. After a rocky start, Cindy has great friends and feels she's blending in (though she's often mistaken for Mexican). But the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis threaten everything in their lives, and the family faces threats. Cindy no longer feels welcome in America -- but could she return to such a changed Iran?
Is it any good?
The 1979 revolution in Iran may seem like ancient history to middle schoolers today, but this amiable novel makes that tense, world-changing event real and -- most importantly -- relatable. Author Firoozeh Dumas draws on her own childhood for IT AIN'T SO AWFUL, FALAFEL, and she captures the spirit and voice of a young girl whose normal middle school anxieties are deepened by a sometimes unbridgeable gulf between her and her very American peers.
Cindy and her family are the emotional core of the story: Cindy's friends, though kind and steadfast, are barely developed. Her girlfriends and kindly neighbors are primarily used to prop up dialogue explaining developments in Iran. Dumas clearly describes the cultural and political changes in Iran and the nation's complicated history with the U.S., and she affectingly portrays the countless ways newcomers to America can struggle to feel at home. It raises issues about the immigrant experience that still resonate today.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about anti-Iranian rhetoric during the hostage crisis, from threatening T-shirts and bumper stickers to harassment of Cindy's family. Do you think much has changed in America since the 1970s in that regard?
Have you ever witnessed harassment of someone because of their ethnicity, religion, gender, or background? What did you do?
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel is based on the author's childhood. Do you think her experience is similar to that of other immigrant families? Why, or why not?
- Author: Firoozeh Dumas
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Clarion Books
- Publication date: May 3, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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For kids who love middle school stories and tales of the immigrant experience
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