Book notes: Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas book summary review and key ideas.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas


“In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of this country beyond her father’s glowing memories of his graduate school years here.

In a series of deftly drawn scenes Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’ wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who first sought riches on Bowling for Dollars and in Las Vegas; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.

An unforgettable story of identity, discovery, and the power of family love, Funny in Farsi will leave us all laughing without an accent.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

This book was recommended to me by one of my close dance friends from college. She also loves reading and follows my blog, which I’m super appreciative of her for 🙏 She specifically mentioned how she loves books by comedians, and referenced this book as being very funny. She specifically mentioned that this author has a potential to be a comic as well. I’m pretty excited to read this book because it sounds super interesting and I love books that make me laugh while I’m listening to them.

Key notes:

  • Even though she thought her mother would love returning to Iran, her mother actually loved living in the U.S. because of the kindness of all of the people around them
    • Even though her mom didn’t speak the language, she saw how their neighbors and family of classmates would show so much kindness and generosity to her daughter
  • Her French husband has always benefited from American stereotypes of the French as being nice, we’ll-read, and being able to take credit for delicious French dishes
    • As an Iranian, she has been frequently stereotyped for potentially being a hostage-taking terrorist
  • Due to the challenges of having an exotic name in America, she decided to simplify her life by adding an American middle name
    • However, she learned that sometimes simplifying your life in the short term only complicates it in the long run
  • No matter the tree, eventually the fruit ripens
    • She eventually learn how to swim despite not being able to learn due to her family trying to teach her by yelling at her
  • Together her relatives form an alliance that represents a genuine and enduring love of family
    • One that sustains them through difficulties and gives them reasons to celebrate during good times
  • In Iran, they learned about different religions like Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism
    • They were taught to practice Islam but respect all religions
    • Knowledge of Islam was mandatory for all Muslim students, but it’s practice was not
    • Christian and Jewish students were exempt from studying religion which made other kids envious
  • Before getting married, they had to figure out all of the family attendances and having a Catholic wedding
  • She helped judge a beauty pageant in the Bahamas which turned out to be a nightmare because they chose the least popular girl

Main ideas / Themes:

  • How people treat outsiders – Several times throughout the book, Firoozeh mentions how international news regarding Iranians would color the way other people would treat them in America. Before the Iranian hostage situation, people were generally nice and inquisitive about her family and their culture. Afterwards, their family had to pretend they were another ethnicity in order to avoid scrutiny from others. However, she also mentions that as a kid growing up, her mother noticed how her school friends and their families were very kind to Firoozeh. They would look out for her and help her out when they knew that her family didn’t know what was going on.
  • Family – One of the strongest themes in the book is family. At the end of the book, the author says that she later realized that the main character in her memoir turned out to be her father. Many of the stories she recalled would eventually center on her father’s involvement in the event. She also mentions how Iranian families like hers tend to have very strong bonds. They not only make it a priority to spend time, but they also always have each others’ backs and look out for one another. All of the adults look after all of the other kids and even see them as their own kids.
  • Long term vs. short term – This idea really caught my attention when it was brought up. The author mentions how “sometimes simplifying your life in the short term sometimes complicates it in the long term.” I think this idea is very powerful. She also said at one point, “no matter the tree, eventually the fruit ripens” in regards to her learning how to swim. I think the idea here is to take your time and go at your own pace. You will get there eventually, but there is no use in trying to match the speed of ripening of others.

Closing thoughts:

I thought this was a very nice and fun book. To be honest, I felt a little underwhelmed at first because it felt like there wasn’t a point to everything the author was saying. Usually when I read books, they are about massively successful or interesting people. They also typically contain really good “lessons learned” that give some good insight to the reader about their field or experience.

With this book, I was looking for the nuggets of wisdom that didn’t really come until the latter half of the book. It was simply a cute recollection of her childhood growing up in the U.S. as in Iranian immigrant. Many of the stories were fun experiences her family had, but a huge part was insight into what is was like for her growing up.

Putting aside my own expectations to get huge value and a ton of applicable life lessons, I realized later that I should just appreciate the book for what it is. It’s a great look into another person’s world which helps broaden my own understanding of other people’s experiences.

Overall, cute book. I would recommend if you’re interested in any of the aforementioned. I would simply caution against doing what I did and having high expectations by comparing to some of my favorite books like Born A Crime or I Can’t Make This Up.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

The biggest and most actionable insight I personally take away from the book is this:

  • Thinking about long term vs. short term

I should always keep in mind how my decisions affect my future. Just because something seems like a good idea in the short term, doesn’t mean it won’t have long term consequences. Sometimes things that may make my life easy now might make my life way more difficult later. I know I’ve learned this lesson before, but I don’t want to learn it again so it is a great reminder.


A memoir about family, balancing different cultures, and what it was like growing up Iranian in America.

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Rating: 3 out of 5.


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