Academic journal article K@ta

Iran, America and Iranian American Community in Firoozeh Jazayeri Dumas' Funny in Farsi

Academic journal article K@ta

Iran, America and Iranian American Community in Firoozeh Jazayeri Dumas' Funny in Farsi

Article excerpt


Some believe that good fiction writers must only concentrate on entertaining their readers, being a good Scheherazade eventually. On the other hand, there are others who consider a talented and skilled writer to be the one who can simultaneously tell a good story and accomplish his or her self-assigned social, political, cultural and historical duties. Firoozeh Jazayeri Dumas, because of her indisputable achievements, belongs to the second group. Her two books, Laughing without an Accent and Funny in Farsi, are bestsellers in both Iran and the United States. Her books appeal to a wide range of readers, regardless of their gender, political views and ethnic backgrounds, and she is eternalized in the pantheon of successful Iranian-American writers.

Firoozeh, both explicitly and implicitly, talks about her own obsession with being raised an Iranian immigrant and having a hybrid mindset. In her stories (which are essentially short article-like diaries), she talks about her life in Iran, her life in the United States and the transition which links these two periods of her life. Although Firoozeh Jazayeri Dumas is a famous hybrid writer but she is not a familiar name in academia and even among Iranian intelligentsia. There are a few reasons explaining her relative anonymity, but the most notable one is being a commercial writer. Firoozeh belongs to a group of commercial writers who write about serious issues which are anthropologically and pragmatically important. Her works do not possess some of the qualities of academically canonized literary works but they definitely share one defining aspect: historical importance.

Firoozeh Jazayeri Dumas and her works are important because of her descriptions of Iranian American community, her hybrid lifestyle, her hybrid mentality and her relationship with her community. In the multicultural millennium which we live in, not having a voice equals lack of existence in every existing aspect. In the political arena it is commonly believed that the United States is the most powerful nation because of its monopoly of arts. If one accepts this common belief, one can argue that finding and constructing a voice in different arts (especially literature) is equal to gaining power. In her works she discusses the undeniable importance of Iranian American community/minority in American society and the urgency of having a voice to express what they want.

Becoming a hybrid immigrant/individual in a multilingual and multicultural world is more or less inevitable, especially if an individual migrates to another country (like Firoozeh and her family). Hybridity is a necessary mental process which must happen to immigrants and it is "considered to be a positive alternative to unhomeliness" (Tyson, 1999, p. 420). Unlike Unhomliness, the hybrid individual, though excruciatingly challenging, finds peace between her two selves or alter egos and learns to use the best of the both worlds (her two cultural backgrounds). Homi Bhabha is the famous post-colonial thinker and theorist who spent most of his academic career writing about hybridity, its effects and its side-effects on individuals. He believes in the resisting quality of hybridity which stands against the colonialists attempts to define the world the way they want, "Hybridity is the revaluation of the assumption of colonial identity through repetition of discriminatory identity effects (Bhabha, 2004, p. 159).

In a time in which many Iranian writers (especially female writers such as Marjan Satrapi and Nahid Rachlin) have published literally works denouncing their cultural backgrounds and heritages, Firoozeh Jazayeri Dumas becomes culturally relevant and significant. She, unlike her predecessors, does not see her surrounding world as black and white or right and wrong. She is a more rational and genuine person in her descriptions and one can see sincerity in her approvals or disapprovals of various American and Iranian cultural phenomena. …

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