It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas;
Clarion Books: New York, 2016; $16.99
Have you ever desired to be like someone else or to lose everything that makes you different and just blend in? Desperate to belong in a foreign country, Zomorod Yousefzadeh is tired of who she is and that is exactly how she felt when she changed her name to Cindy. She then makes a friend who lives next door and her name is coincidentally Cindy too. Soon, Zomorod realizes that Cindy isn’t such a true friend when she rudely tells Zomorod that she doesn’t like her.
Before she realizes it, Zomorod suddenly has more problems. Middle school has made its appearance. On the first day of school, Cindy whispers something to her friends when Zomorod passes and they abruptly burst into laughter. The late 1970s bring more troubles than you could expect for young Zomorod. Stuck in a web of questions about camels, and teachers asking her to talk about her homeland, Iran—that she is ashamed of—Zomorod feels lonelier than ever. Just when she makes one faithful friend and joins Girl Scouts, her happiness is diminished, like a fire blown away leaving the people shivering with the coldness of the air. The first heart-breaking event is when her father loses his job. He was only in the US because of his job, but all of this turmoil changes things.
To worsen the circumstances, Zomorod’s mom can never seem to be happy. She is always crying or yelling and Zomorod can’t handle the pressure. With mixed feelings of love and hate towards America, Zomorod feels very uncertain about this new school and home. Puka shell necklaces, beanbag chairs, and frilly bed sets aren’t enough for her to take her mind of the strife between America and Iran. When the 64 hostages are taken by Iran, life gets even worse and the bullying increases.
Being in middle school myself, I have seen occurrences of bullying before and I can understand how she feels. As the author describes Zomorod’s experiences, you can find yourself being drawn into the book while feeling sympathy, empathy, and tenderness. I can personally feel how hard it is for Zomorod to move to different schools so many times. I have moved to four various schools, but she has it worse because she moves in and out of the country.
One of my favorite parts of this book is that the emotion is so raw. Feelings keep this book alive and entertaining. Zomorod’s life is so different from other people’s, which means her feelings are too. Sorrowful wisdom is shown through her. This book is a touching story with sentiment dotting it. I think that the author paints a picture of words for us to breathe in.
If you wish to read a book filled with humor and drama, you should read It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. I would say that this book would interest 10 to 13 year olds. Overall, for me, this would be a 5 star book for its words that made me let out wisps of laughter, sighs of sadness, and breaths of understanding. This book nicely conveys a message about being unique with a middle school twist on it. Emotion, pleasure, and pain talk to you, leading you into a relatable story. Filled with comedy and whimsical words of wisdom, we learn about how hard it is to be different, but at the same time how important it is, too.