Book Review - Laughing Without an Accent

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Laughing Without an Accent

Author: Firoozeh Dumas

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Villard


For those who’ve read Funny in Farsi, Firoozeh Dumas needs no introduction. But for those who haven’t (like me) Laughing without an Accent is a brilliant if scattered introduction to this wonderful author. In this book, Dumas recounts with wit and candor incidents from her own life, a life that began in Iran and is currently ongoing in California together with children and a French husband. With humor and insight the author writes and contrasts life between America and Iran, a contrast that spans everything from language, education, food, customs, marriage, lifestyle, roads, and everything else you can think of.


I loved this book! In fact, it reminded me irresistibly of R.K.Narayan (1906-2001), an Indian author who was one of the masters of this style of hilarious autobiographical writing. Firoozeh writes with undeniable charm whether she’s describing taking a desk up the narrow stairs of their condo, the antics of her numerous family members or an escaped monkey, eating a revolting though expensive sausage or teaching her children to go TV-free. While she’s respectful and highly affectionate of her Persian roots and upbringing, Firoozeh still manages to poke gentle fun at them. Such as when she describes having her book translated for Persian audiences and watching haplessly as the censors edit out all references to ham. In sadness and in sickness, in an Iranian school or Berkley campus, whether eating Persian food or French – the author has a turn of phrase that’s effective for its very simplicity and smartness.


I found two cons with this book. One, the scattered style of writing. For example, in one chapter the author is living in Iran and in the very next, she's in America, with no explanation as to how and why. I suspect all the groundwork had probably been laid out in the first novel which I haven't read and which sadly, the author doesn't repeat here. I wish she had. It would have made more sense then. The second isn't a con exactly. I just wish this book were longer. At a mere 240 pages, this book is made for the term 'short and sweet'. Or maybe it felt that way because I devoured it one go - yes, it was that good! (In any case, Firoozeh, please write longer or tell your editor to stop editing out stuff :)

In Short

Over the years I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve become very particular as to what I allow on my keeper shelves. Long before I finished reading the first chapter, I knew this amusing and moving book had guaranteed itself a place among my copies of Narayan and Wodehouse books. If Funny in Farsi is half as enjoyable as this one, then I’ll make space for it there as well. In other words, this book is a must-read!

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