Funny in Farsi is one of the funniest memoirs I’ve ever read. And reading is kind of my thing. From start to finish, I couldn’t put it down. My students enjoyed it, too. Literature circles with such a voicey read of nonfiction buoyed them through the unknown words, culture, and era. I’m so excited to offer this interview with such a talented memoirist! And I cannot wait to read her newest book Laughing Without an Accent, sitting in my queue as we speak. Enjoy!
1.) Thanks for joining me. I am anxious to hear your voice pop even in interview questions. It was your voice, so clear and hilarious, that had me laughing out loud every other page. Is real-person Firoozeh Dumas always this funny or do you assume the jovial voice for tone’s sake?
My writing voice is my only voice. I’m the same person in my books as I am at the grocery store. I wish I could say, “In real life, I am a sultry woman of mystery,” but alas, that’s not true although I’m working on it.
2.) I can imagine chapters from your book being read at family gatherings and passed around to never-ending laughter. Has your family enjoyed their stories being immortalized?
Some of my family members have enjoyed it, others are annoyed that I did not write about them. Do you how hard it is to please Iranian relatives?!?
3.) Likewise, have you ever gotten any resistance from family members or others mentioned in your memoir?
I have one relative who constantly reminds me that she never wants to be in my books again. But she’s the only one. Others constantly corner me at family events and tell me stories, followed by, “You should put that in your next book.”
4.) What is the process for writing about other people? Do you have to change names, get permission, write a disclaimer? How exactly does that work?
My first two books were non-fiction, so this was a big issue for me. I tried to be fair. I did not use by books as a vehicle to get even for past wrongs. I wanted to tell my story and sometimes that requires writing unflattering stories about others. Again, I tried very hard to only say what I had to say, and not get carried away. Except for a few exceptions, I let people read what I had written about them and gave them a chance to comment. Everyone that I wrote about was a relative so I was not worried about being sued, otherwise I would have written a disclaimer. It seems like this has become a bigger issue lately which is one reason why I am relieved to have switched to fiction for my current book.
5.) What made you decide to collect your funny pieces from childhood via narrative?
I never consciously made that decision. I started to write without any plans or goals, and what came out is what came out.
6.) The part about the Shah’s visit to America wasn’t very funny; it was terrifying. What is most important for students to take away from this piece of your story?
I hope that by reading my books, students realize that there is a difference between the people of a country and its leaders. People’s hatred for a leader of a country should not automatically extend to its people.
7.) Sometimes it’s difficult to help students differentiate between the genres of writing. Would you explain that nuance in regard to whether your own book is fiction or nonfiction?
My first two books are 100% true but I do tell students that memoirs are one person’s truth. My brother might write a totally different book about the same events. His perspective would be different but the facts would all be the same.
8.) Would you tell us a little about your newest book, Laughing Without an Accent?
Laughing Without An Accent is another series of vignettes. I am currently working on a middle grade novel which has been great fun, but very challenging.
9.) And finally, what is your favorite aspect about being a writer?
There is so much I love about writing…I love telling stories. I love using just the right words to paint pictures. I love connecting with readers and seeing how my experience resonates with theirs. There is something very honest about reading and writing and I feel honored to be a part of that community.
Favorite drink? Depends on the time of day! Coffee, red wine, tea
Guilty pleasure? Watching Whose Line is it Anyway for hours.
Something on your bucket list? My life has exceeded any expectation I ever had. I have no bucket list. I’m just grateful!
Best vacation? The first time I left Iran, we went to London for a few days. I was seven years old and the sheer wonder of that trip is still unmatched.
Last book you read? The Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole.
Paper, electronic, or audio book? Paper FOREVER.
Languages you speak? Persian, French, English and enough Spanish to embarrass myself.
Thank you for interviewing with me, Firoozeh! Thanks for sharing your memories.