It Ain't So Awful, Falafel speaks to the heart. Immigrants from Iran, Cindy (Zomorod) Yousefzadeh and her parents move from Iran to Compton to Newport Beach, California, and begin living the great American dream. In America, they have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, they can own property, work and play where and when they want to, they make life choices, dress how they choose, and enjoy all the freedoms that Iranians didn't have.
Cindy begins middle school and has a difficult time navigating. Some kids are rude--making fun of her foreign sounding name and teasing her about Iran. One even asks her about her camel! Lucky for Cindy, she is able to make friends with Carolyn, a budding journalist. The girls do usual "girl" things: they shop, eat pizza, go to movies, listen to music and talk about boys.
Cindy is excited about her new favorite holiday: Halloween. When she first came to the U.S., she thought Halloween was just wearing a costume to class. She had no idea kids went house to house trick or treating. When kids started ringing their doorbell, Cindy's family gave each of them a piece of fruit until they ran out. The family then started handing out pickling cucumbers. Cindy says, " Iranians always have massive amounts of little cucumbers in their houses. If there is ever an emergency that requires huge amounts of small cucumbers, Iranians will be instant heroes."
Life in America is looking up--that is until the Shah is ousted from Iran and hostages are taken. American anti-Iranian sentiment runs high, and Cindy's engineer father loses his job. Someone in Cindy's condo community is sending her family hate messages. First the hater tampers with their garbage can and then leaves a dead hamster on their doorstep which Cindy hides from her parents. As their savings dwindle, Cindy takes a part-time job, delivering flyers.
Once the neighbors find out about the display of hate, will they rally around Cindy's immigrant family? It takes a village to raise a child. What does it take to help an immigrant family in need?
I loved this little gem! Full of historical details and anecdotes about Iran and typical Iranian families, It Ain't So Awful, Falafel rings true. It is entertaining and interesting. Readers will be charmed by Cindy and the friendship between Caroline and Cindy is sweet and sisterly.
Highly, highly recommended for grade 5-up. 370 pages 9780544612310
Recommended by: Pamela Thompson, Library Media Specialist, Texas USA
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***** From Clarion (the publisher): Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can't distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi.