Charming! That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of the stories in Firoozeh Dumas’ book Laughing Without An Accent. Firoozeh was born in Iran and spent part of her childhood there before her family moved to the United States. Firoozeh married a man from France and raised her older children in California. Now she and her husband and youngest daughter live in Germany because of her husband’s job.
Firoozeh is a global citizen and part of what makes her personal essays so charming is that she offers insight into how American culture looks from an Iranian perspective and how Iran may look to people with only an American perspective. She makes us keenly aware that Iran was once a very different country than it is now. Another reason her essays will charm the reader is because though they have an international flavor we can all relate to them. She writes about her relationship with her mother who is constantly giving her things she doesn’t need, her relationship with her father as he adjusts to retirement, and going clothes shopping with her teenage daughter. I especially enjoyed the last two essays in the book- one a list of ten pieces of advice from a graduation speech Firoozeh gave at an American college and another about her friendship with Kathryn Koob, one of the American embassy employees held hostage in Tehran, Iran, by the student-led Revolutionary Guard for more than four hundred days beginning in the fall of 1979. The rescue of these hostages was immortalized in the movie Argo.
I’ve read some of Firoozeh’s more current essays which chronicle her family’s life in Germany and have appeared in The New York Times in 2018. They are charming too.
Firoozeh has written two other books- Laughing in Farsi for an adult audience and It Ain’t So Awful Falafel aimed at a middle grade audience.
If you are looking for a charming and delightful read Laughing Without An Accent is it. You can pick it up anytime and just read one story. It’s perfect to take to the beach or cottage or on a summer holiday.