A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Describes the events of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the hostage crisis and how they affected people living in Iran and abroad. Portrays challenges immigrants face in fitting in and joining American culture. Depicts Iranian traditions, culture, history, and food. Author's note directs readers to more resources on Iranian-Americans and the hostage crisis.
Strong message about kindness, empathy, and generosity. Shows power of American dream and role of citizens in welcoming newcomers to participate in that dream.
Positive Role Models
Cindy, though embarrassed over her family's inability to blend into American society, is a loving daughter. She strives to help them fit in, despite sometimes bristling at the responsibility. She worries for her depressed mother and angry, frightened father. Cindy's mother is a generous and thoughtful host. Her father is an outspoken feminist, committed to educating his daughter. Several friends and neighbors look out for the family, providing kindnesses small and large.
Violence & Scariness
Family is targeted with threatening behavior, notably a dead hamster with a note telling them to leave the country. Anti-Iranian T-shirts, bumper stickers, and speech make the family feel unwelcome and nervous. A boy throws tomatoes at a girl. Family fears for safety of loved ones back in Iran amid reports of arrests and executions.
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Products & Purchases
Lots of brand names mentioned to firmly set the story in the late '70s. Cindy desperately wants what she views as essential American status symbols: a stylish bedroom set, a beanbag chair, a puka shell necklace, and the like.
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.
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.
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