Daily Archives: July 15, 2016

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

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by Firoozeh Dumas
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s the summer of 1978 and Zomorod, or Cindy, as she likes to be called in America, is still getting used to living in California. She and her parents have just moved from Compton to Newport Beach, and she’s constantly embarrassed by their accents and misunderstandings, while she’s just trying to fit in like any other preteen. Cindy’s first order of business is to make friends over the summer so that starting sixth grade won’t be so hard. The first neighbor she meets is also named Cindy, but turns out to be a chatterbox who doesn’t ask Cindy a thing about herself, so she moves on. Eventually she meets Carolyn, who wants to be a journalist so isn’t afraid to ask questions, and then Rachel and Mary “Howie” Howard and they quickly become close friends, though her friends tease her for her crush on a boy. Cindy’s observations on life in America will be¬†funny and surprising to life-long Americans.

Then the Iranian hostage crisis unfolds and Cindy goes back to being embarrassed – only this time, she’s embarrassed of being Iranian. Suddenly she is not only asked to give reports to the class on what’s going on, but she is targeted for xenophobic comments and actions (someone leaves a dead hamster on her porch with a note saying “Iranians go home”; there is trouble with their trash cans, etc.). Cindy’s family suffers as her dad, an oil company employee, loses his job when the company no longer does business with the United States. Eventually Carolyn pulls her out of her funk and they devise a plan so Cindy doesn’t have to move back to Iran. The story wraps up so tidily (and a bit unrealistically) that this is definitely middle grade, though it’s heartening to see the way Cindy’s family is treated well by many neighbors in the face of mistreatment by a few.