Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Middle Grades Pick: It Ain't So Awful, Falafel

It Ain't So Awful,Falafel
by Firoozeh Dumas
Clarion Books
370 pages
ISBN: 9780544612310

Editorial Reviews

"Filled with humorous touches and authentic cultural references, Dumas’s story will resonate not just with young immigrants but with any readers trying to adapt to new situations."
—Publishers Weekly

* "Dumas’ semi-autobiographical novel is both funny and affecting...Readers will be thoroughly invested in Cindy’s story, whether holding their breath or laughing out loud, and always hoping that the Yousefzadehs will come out on top."
—Booklist, STARRED review

* "[A] fresh take on the immigrant experience—authentic, funny, and moving from beginning to end."
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

"[It Ain't So Awful, Falafel] is funny, affecting, and nuanced...The novel doesn’t sugarcoat the issues, but it balances these serious notes with preteen antics and melodramas that Blume would be proud of; Cindy’s voice will undoubtedly draw in readers from all backgrounds."
—Horn Book

"...keeps readers engaged with the very real and relatable difficulties of finding friends after moving, dealing with family issues both domestic and abroad, and discovering one’s own identity in middle school."
—School Library Journal

“Firoozeh Dumas’s unique gift is her ability to use her wry, bold, but always gentle wit to tell serious stories about family, heritage, and loss. . . . In this era of suspicion and paranoia, [this book] offers a tender and compassionate glimpse into the immigrant experience.” —Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner

"This book is a sheer delight—rambunctious and rich. . . . Firoozeh Dumas writes with the perfect light touch that makes us wonder once again: Who is running the big world and why not this person, please?"  —Naomi Shihab Nye, novelist and poet

My Review:

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel speaks to the heart. Immigrants from Iran, Cindy (Zomorod) Yousefzadeh and her parents move from Iran  to Compton to Newport Beach, California, and begin living the great American dream. In America, they have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, they can own property, work and play where and when they want to, they make life choices, dress how they choose, and enjoy all the freedoms that Iranians didn't have.

Cindy begins middle school and has a difficult time navigating. Some kids are rude--making fun of her foreign sounding name and teasing her about Iran. One even asks her about her camel! Lucky for Cindy, she is able to make friends with Carolyn, a budding journalist. The girls do usual "girl" things: they shop, eat pizza, go to movies, listen to music and talk about boys.

Cindy is excited about her new favorite holiday: Halloween. When she first came to the U.S., she thought Halloween was just wearing a costume to class. She had no idea kids went house to house trick or treating. When kids started ringing their doorbell, Cindy's family gave each of them a piece of fruit until they ran out.  The family then started handing out pickling cucumbers. Cindy says, " Iranians always have massive amounts of little cucumbers in their houses. If there is ever an emergency that requires huge amounts of small cucumbers, Iranians will be instant heroes."

Life in America is looking up--that is until the Shah is ousted from Iran and hostages are taken. American anti-Iranian sentiment runs high, and Cindy's engineer father loses his job. Someone in Cindy's condo community is sending her family hate messages. First the  hater tampers with their garbage can and then leaves  a dead hamster on their doorstep which Cindy hides from her parents. As their savings dwindle, Cindy takes a part-time job, delivering flyers.

Once the neighbors find out about the display of hate, will they rally around Cindy's immigrant family? It takes a village to raise a child. What does it take to help an immigrant  family in need?

I loved this little gem! Full  of historical details and anecdotes about Iran and typical Iranian families, It Ain't So Awful, Falafel rings true. It is entertaining and interesting. Readers will be charmed by Cindy and the friendship between Caroline and Cindy is sweet and sisterly.

Highly, highly recommended grades 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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