Thursday, July 2, 2009
Throughout the history of literature, authors often employ an outsider or a child to offer insights into a culture. From Huck Finn to Scout, to Holden, their impressions of the society around them usually provides a humorous critique of the culture and its absurdities. Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas is a 'fish out of water' memoir about a young girl whose Iranian family emigrated to the United States in the early 1970's. Well-written and terribly funny, I laughed as I recognized some universal coming of age experiences, while gaining insight into an outside perspective on American culture. The book, a series of short essays, reminded me a great deal of one of my favorite essayists, Bill Bryson and his book I'm a Stranger Here Myself. His look at American culture after living abroad for twenty years is hilarious. From breakfast pizza to people injured by their sofas, Bryson shines a spotlight on life in this country. Another favorite of mine is David Sedaris. With his perfect comedic timing, I prefer listening to Sedaris in an audiobook format, driving along to his outrageous tales of life in the United States and abroad. In fact, I was laughing so hard when I listened to Me Talk Pretty Someday that I nearly careened off the side of the Long Island Expressway. His latest installment, When You are Engulfed in Flames, covers familiar territory of growing up in North Carolina, living with Hugh in Normandy, but this time Sedaris details his experience of quitting smoking in Japan. Through the eyes of an outsider, we identify with Sedaris' experience of trying to communicate in a foreign situation. With uncanny observations and insights, all three books are easy, interesting reads for the summer.