This bouncy follow-up to Funny in Farsi has too much heart to be shrugged off as froth. Humorist Firoozeh Dumas resists playing gimmicky Western misperceptions of Islamic culture for gags. Instead, in Laughing Without an Accent, she affectionately chronicles a childhood in Iran, teenage years in Southern California, marriage to a French man, and her doting, nutty Persian family's diligent attempts to adapt to life in "Amrika". "The velour navy jogging suit is my male relatives' default attire," Dumas notes. "After all of them had acquired second and, in some cases, third pairs, they started getting catty."
Teasing out the absurdity underlying ordinary situations is the introspective Dumas' cup of tea, particularly when she reinvents her parents' quirks as universal comic zingers, rather than progress reports on their cultural assimilation. When her father turns eighty, 51 relatives cram aboard an Alaskan cruise ship, where they're tailed by the crew's pricey shutterbug. "My father...kept interrogating relatives about the number of photos they had purchased," observes Dumas. "Then converting that to Iranian currency and letting them know what that money would have purchased in prerevolutionary Iran."
Laughing Without an Accent is, I'm sure, wry and lively in its written form. But as narrated by Firoozeh Dumas a 2005 Audie Award finalist in her creamy-textured, toasted licorice voice, it upgrades to an indelible personal account. Dumas uses even pacing, few pauses, and a soothing, chatty tone to build intimacy. Her warm honeysuckle inflections groove with character-specific dialogue and she's most animated when narrating sections in Farsi, her lyrical native tongue, or imitating her mother's charmingly accented English. ("Vat? Eez very good.") She is such splendid company that when Dumas reflects "this feeling of being on the outside has shaped me into the perfect party guest", it seems even she must know she eez better than just very good. Nita Rao
With dry wit and a bold spirit, Dumas puts her own unique mark on the themes of family, community, and tradition. She braves the uncommon palate of her French-born husband and learns the nuances of having her book translated for Persian audiences. (The censors edit out all references to ham.) And along the way, she reconciles her beloved Iranian customs with her Western ideals.
Explaining crossover cultural food fare, Dumas says, "The weirdest American culinary marriage is yams with melted marshmallows. I don't know who thought of this Thanksgiving tradition, but I'm guessing a hyperactive, toothless three-year-old." On Iranian wedding anniversaries: "It just initially seemed odd to celebrate the day that 'our families decided we should marry even though I had never met you, and frankly, it's not working out so well.'" On trying to fit in with her American peers: "At the time, my father drove a Buick LeSabre, a fancy French word meaning 'OPEC thanks you.'"
Dumas also documents her first year as a new mother, the familial chaos that ensues after she removes the television set from the house, the experience of taking 51 family members on a birthday cruise to Alaska, and a road trip to Iowa with an American once held hostage in Iran.
Droll, moving, and relevant, Laughing Without an Accent shows how our differences can unite us - and provides indelible proof that Firoozeh Dumas is a humorist of the highest order.
©2008 Firoozeh Dumas; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
"There's such warmth to Dumas' writing that it invites the reader to pull up a seat at her table and smile right along with her at the quirks of her family and Iranians and Americans in general." (Booklist)
"These stories, like everything Firoozeh Dumas writes, are charming, highly amusing vignettes of family life. Dumas is one of those rare people - a naturally gifted storyteller." (Alexander McCall Smith)
I work to keep my reviews free of plot spoilers. I hate reviews that tell you the whole story. That said, I do love reading reviews!
I wanted to like this book. It just seemed so superficial and weak that I just couldn't listen past the first few chapters. A total disappointment.
Listening to Laughing Without an Accent; by far was one of my most pleasurable experiences. I was constantly mesmerized by author's undaunting wit; her colorful descriptions of the events; and her genius selections of the themes. I think Firoozeh stories bring humor and joy to not only Iranian-Americans but also all the immigrants to this wonderful land. I can not wait to listen to her other book Funny in Farsi
I Love this author and will listen to anything she writes (then reads) She has a great sense of humour, and laughs readily at herself, even sharing cringe worthy details of her life. Love how she gets into family and culture and ties it all together in her stories letting us in on her past the good and the bad. The only thing I wasn't thrilled with was her stories aren't in any order that I could see, they seemed to jump around the time line a lot. So there was some overlapping and backtracking. However, that aside, I would recommend this book highly and again have to say would love to meet her and spend some time with her and her famiy!
Entertaining, enlightening, enjoyble and genuinely funny as Firoozeh Dumas one again leads us through trails of an Iranian and French family's life in America. Pieces of this adorable read could be the account of any American with children...tough days! The red spread story is very typical of a mother's love and desire to please, while the food stories regal us with visions of lamb's head...all entertaining and fun! Looking forward to her sequel. Peggy Davis
I just finished listening to Funny in Farsi and Laughing Without an Accent and I so enjoyed the books, especially the narration, that I just wanted to let people know that these are great books to listen to. Firoozeh's narration adds another layer to the stories and is especially good when she imitates her mother. So many of the stories crossed all cultural lines and I recognised much of the quirkyness described in the books in my own Australian family. I look forward to her next book.
Ms. Dumas is a fabulous storyteller. I read in hard copy both, Funny In Farsi & LWAA. I laughed and related all the way through, even though I am not Persian. The audio book was entertaining and well done. I enjoyed listening to the real person behind the stories. It's like having the author in your house telling you face to face over chai. Highly recommend.
I have not read Funny in Farsi. I enjoyed this book but am not tempted to buy her earlier book. This book is light, amusing, and has some truly funny moments. I think it would have been better served by a narrator with a better sense of comic timing.
M.A. in English. Avid reader and listener.
Occasionally it is fine when authors decide to narrate their own books, but there is a reason why they have professionals for this sort of thing. I wanted to listen to the whole story because it seemed like it would have been interesting, but I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters because of the narrator's voice.
Addicted to books in all forms.
I found this book to be funny and sweet, but it took a couple of stories before I really got into it. Just when I was ready to give up I became hooked. The author narrates, and I think I have come to the conclusion that authors should not narrate their books. It is not that she does a bad job, so much as it is an adequate job. Nothing wrong but at the same time nothing that makes the entire book come alive for me like some of the professional readers do. The stories made me laugh and one even made me cry, so all in all not a bad choice.
I haven't seen the printed version, but certainly think the recorded version would be better since it was narrated by the author. A tiny touch of accent, correct pronunciation of places, names and ideas adds to the experience of the story.
I can compare this to short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri because both authors have a sense to two cultures and express the ideas, confusions, conflicts, humor and life experience in a similar respectful (of both cultures) way.
I love her voice and cadence, she is easy to listen to. I think her soft tones and real emotions make the deep moments in the book more memorable. I enjoyed her ability to use a lighter voice and express joy and happiness appropriately.
Living between and within two cultures, with a smile.
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