Zomorod Yusefzadeh is living in California with her Iranian family before and during the Iran hostage crisis. No wonder she wants to change her name to Cindy! Not to mention that no one can pronounce her real name, and people always ask, when they find out where she’s from, if they ride camels. Zomorod/Cindy has only even seen a camel once—in a zoo!
These are the adventures and misadventures of an Iranian girl with an immigrant family that sticks out like a sore thumb, in the community, in Zomorod’s middle school, especially after the shah leaves Iran and the political radicals take Americans hostage in the embassy in Iran. Zomorod tries to fit in, by changing her name to Cindy, by celebrating American holidays, and by making friends, but it’s hard to reconcile the two cultures she is living in, Persian and American. The book reminded me of one of my favorite movies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, as Zomorod/Cindy sees the world from inside her Iranian family and from the American point of view that she is learning. However, no weddings here, as Zomorod/Cindy is only 10-12 years old as the story progresses.
The story is kind of sad at times. Cindy’s dad loses his job as a result of the hostage crisis, and Cindy’s mom is having a lot trouble adjusting to life in the United States. However, lots of humor, and good attitude (most of the time) from Cindy, and some persistently friendly and hospitable people give the book an upbeat and hopeful feel and ending. This book would be an excellent book to give to current middle schoolers who are hearing all of the anti-immigrant talk and being influenced or discouraged by it. It Ain’t so Awful, Falafel gives a different perspective on the immigrant experience and shows how important it is to try to understand how others think and feel.