Home Book news Firoozeh Dumas, an interview.

Firoozeh Dumas, an interview.

by Louisa Klein

Another amazing interview by our super media-coordinator Lucy Hannau. This time is the turn of Iranian best selling author Firoozeh Dumas. Here are some info from the author’s website:  http://firoozehdumas.com/

Firoozeh Dumas was born in Abadan, Iran and moved to Whittier, California at the age of seven. After a two-year stay, she and her family moved back to Iran and lived in Ahvaz and Tehran. Two years later, they moved back to Whittier, then to Newport Beach. Firoozeh then attended UC Berkeley where she met and married a Frenchman.
Firoozeh grew up listening to her father, a former Fulbright Scholar, recount the many colorful stories of his life. In 2001, with no prior writing experience, Firoozeh decided to write her stories as a gift for her children. Random House published these stories in 2003. Funny in Farsi was on the SF Chronicle and LA Times bestseller lists and was a finalist for the PEN/USA award in 2004 and a finalist in 2005 for an Audie Award for best audio book. She lost to Bob Dylan. She was also a finalist for the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor, the first Middle Eastern woman ever to receive this honor. Unfortunately, she lost that one to Jon Stewart. Even though, as Firoozeh’s dad likes to point out, Jon Stewart wrote his book with a team of writers, while Firoozeh wrote hers, alone, before her children woke up for school.
Critics and readers of all ages have loved her stories. Jimmy Carter called Funny in Farsi, “A humorous and introspective chronicle of a life filled with love—of family, country and heritage.”
Orange County Reads One Book (California) selected Funny in Farsi for Community Reads 2004, the City of Whittier (California) in 2005, Cape Ann, (Massachusetts)) in 2006, Palo Alto and Berkeley (California) in 2006, and Dayton, (Ohio), Lamorinda, (California) Wood Dale, Ithasca and Bensensille,(Illinois) in 2008, Brentwood (California) in 2009 and in 2010, Concord (New Hampshire) selected both Funny in Farsi and Laughing without an Accent. Funny in Farsi is now on the California Recommended Reading List and is used in many junior high, high schools and universities across the country. You may have also heard Firoozeh’s commentaries on NPR or read her pieces in the NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, Gourmet, SF Chronicle or Lifetime Magazine.
For the past seven years, Firoozeh has traveled internationally reminding us that our commonalities far outweigh our differences…and doing so with humor. She has spoken in conferences, schools, universities, churches, Jewish Temples and Islamic centers.  Everywhere she has gone, audiences have embraced her message of shared humanity and invited her back for more.
The Persian version of Funny in Farsi is currently one of the bestselling books in Iran and ABC created a sit com based on Funny in Farsi, which unfortunately, was not selected for the season. Firoozeh’s second book, Laughing Without an Accent, a series of autobiographical essays, was published by Random House in May 2008.
And now, here’s the actual interview, all for you, avid fiction-fans, bookworms and such!
1) Is there a specific event that made you pick up the pen and start writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I started writing my stories for my children. I simply wanted them to know what my life was like before I became a mother. I also wanted them to know that our commonalities far outweigh our differences. I learned that lesson when I was seven and moved to America from Iran. Since then, I have always seen the humanity in people before noticing anything else. It makes the world a much less scary place!
2) How did you find your agent? Was it easy to get published?
Finding my agent was very, very hard. I kept getting rejected. I was repeatedly told that Middle Eastern family and humor just don’t go together. It’s still odd for people to realize that I am an Iranian woman, and yes, I can make them laugh.
3) As a “permanent foreigner” what aspects of your personality are definitely Iranian and what American?
The Iranian part of me wants to invite strangers to my house and give them a warm meal. Actually, the Iranian part of me wants to feed everyone, all the time. The American part of me believes that I can fix any problem and that my voice matters. Put the two together and you have a slightly bossy food pusher who wants to change the world.
4) How has being bilingual and then learning French impacted your life and vision of the world? When speaking Farsi, English or French do you also change the way you think and act? In what language do you dream?
Every language has opened a door for me into another culture and another way of thinking. I am utterly fascinated by language, and by words that exist in only one language. For example, the French have a word fringale, which means a little hungry. Of course it makes perfect sense that the French would have such a specific word. We have many words in Persian for “cousin.” Family relations are so important in the Iranian culture.
I definitely act differently when I speak different languages. I speak louder in Persian. My husband keeps pointing that out to me! When I speak Persian, I also tend to be less direct. I dream in all three languages and I am proud to say that I have been told that I am funny in all three languages. I think I’m ready for Italian…
5) If you were a menu, what would you include? What specialties would best represent your personality and your life experiences?
If I were creating a menu, I would simply include the freshest and highest quality local ingredients that I could find. There is no one best food; there is something fabulous to be enjoyed everywhere and that is what I would try to find. Having said that, my favorite food is sushi but if I were in Italy, I would not eat sushi. I would eat whatever fresh Italian meal was put in front of me. Now I’m getting hungry…
©Lost in Fiction, all rights reserved.

You may also like