Francois’ mother did not approve of firoozeh, even before they met. Being catholic, she could not stand the thought of her son marrying a Muslim. While Firoozeh’s parents had always hoped she would marry an Iranian, they liked Francois because he was kind and because she loved him.
Much of Francois’ family declined to attend the wedding, but his mother ended up coming. On the other hand, almost all of Firoozeh’s relatives were eager to attend. Despite neither Firoozeh or Francois practicing their respective religions, they decided to both have a Catholic ceremony and a Persian ceremony. The Persian ceremony included a sofreh (a hand sewn cloth on which the family arranges food and objects), a mirror, and candleholders.
For the reception, they chose an Indian-Chinese restaurant, since it was the only place that met their needs.As part of the tradition, they paid for a lamb to be slaughtered and presented as a centerpiece. When the lamb arrived, it was just a carcass, with all the meat removed, providing more of a terrifying sight than a symbolic one appropriate for a wedding.
Notes: In Iranian culture, a lamb is slaughtered whenever something good happens. Whenever someone buys a car, graduates from school, gets married, or has a child, a lamb is slaughtered. Iranians living in America would pay to have a lamb slaughtered in Iran, with the meat donated to the poor.
Chapter 23: “I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet”
After their wedding, Francois and Firoozeh moved to San Francisco. One day an earthquake shook the entire building, so firoozeh planned to evacuate the building, but on her way out, she saw an old lady named Golda who looked like she was about to have a heart attack. Firoozeh stopped to assist her, and was able to get the color to return to the lady’s face when they sat down in her apartment.
A few days later, the lady bought a chocolate Bundt cake to Firoozeh, thanking her again and again for saving her life. As the weeks went on, Golda came to the door again and again with a chocolate cake to show her gratitude.
Another effect of the earthquake was Francois’ mother did not want them to keep the china she had given to them. Because of this, Francois and Firoozeh agreed the china was bad karma. They decided any money from it would be as well, so they donated it to a home for families of children undergoing long-term treatment at a nearby hospital.
Eventually Firoozeh stopped working odd jobs and started writing scholarship essays, an occupation that proved to be much more lucrative than her prior attempts.
Chapter 24: “A Nose by Any Other Name”
For Iranian women, their nose is the most important part of their features. Many women opt for plastic surgery to rectify any problems with their noses. firoozeh came from a family with less than ideal noses, so everyone assumed she would need plastic surgery. When she turned eighteen, she went to a consultation with a plastic surgeon, but opted to not have anything done, which her father was thankful for.
Notes: This is one of the shorter chapters of the book, but it gives some of the only insight into the cultural differences between America and Iran. While many Americans opt for plastic surgery to get things fixed, others are told that beauty is on the inside. According to Dumas, that same attitude was not present in Iran.
Family is another important theme in Funny in Farsi. According to Firoozeh, Iranian culture places much more emphasis on the family than the bulk of American culture does. In Iran, families tend to stick closer together, often staying in the same small communities for many years, and sometimes having three or even four generations live together under one roof. Family is especially important for Iranian immigrants settling in the United States: family members provide Firoozeh with the morale, encouragement, and economic support she needs to prosper in her new country. Family also provides the Iranian immigrants in the memoir with an important, ongoing connection to their country of origin.
Firoozeh discusses many of the ways that Iranian families, and particularly Iranian immigrant families, can be an important support system. Materially speaking, the family provides a “safety net” of money and shelter. Over the course of the memoir, Firoozeh describes how various cousins, nephews, and uncles come to stay with Kazem and his wife and children, even though his house isn’t particularly big. Kazem clearly considers providing his relatives with shelter to be one of his duties as a member of the family. Elsewhere in the book, Firoozeh discusses how family members provide her, and her relatives, with more abstract forms of support, such as encouragement and inspiration. Her parents encourage her to work hard and educate herself, and their encouragement is an important part of her acceptance to U.C. Berkeley, and her success there. Family members also act as important role models for Firoozeh—for example, her Aunt Parvine inspires her to overcome traditional roles and pursue an education and a career for herself. Furthermore, because of the way she’s raised to think of her family, Firoozeh gets genuine pleasure when her relatives—even her distant relatives—achieve successes in life, and she treats her relatives with great warmth and affection, and expects the same warmth and affection in return. All in all, Firoozeh depicts the family as a source of warmth, comfort, love, and support—qualities that one would associate with family in any culture, but which may be especially overt in Iranian society, or particularly strong among Iranian immigrants.
At times, however, Firoozeh portrays her family as a stifling force in her life. The constant pressure of her family—i.e., the fact that she’s obligated to so many different people, and implicitly ranked and measured against the achievements of so many siblings, cousins, nephews, and nieces—sometimes causes her to become frustrated. For example, Firoozeh’s father Kazem spends years trying to teach Firoozeh to swim; when she can’t right away, he complains to his relatives, and contrasts Firoozeh’s inability to swim with the success of her cousins and siblings, who’ve all learned how. Firoozeh only learns how to swim later on, when her father and relatives aren’t yelling at her—suggesting that her family members’ constant pressure and badgering sometimes acts as a barrier to her development and individuality. For the most part, however, Firoozeh conveys her frustration in an affectionate, humorous way, giving the impression that family, even if it can be a little annoying at times, is for the most part a great source of joy and success in her life.