Firoozeh Dumas | The Children’s Book Review | May 20, 2016
Firoozeh Dumas’s Selfie with It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
I usually write adult non-fiction, which isn’t that hard. I don’t have to make up anything; I just retell a story in an interesting way. I spent a long time thinking about what it means to write fiction for a younger audience. I don’t believe in writing for an age group. A good story is a good story; all ages can appreciate it. Obviously, some stories contain subject matter and vocabulary that is inappropriate for younger audiences but that was not my challenge.
After writing twenty six versions of this book over a seven-year period, I can now say there are two details geared towards a younger audience, the title and the historical content. That’s it. I always assume my reader is an intelligent person looking for authenticity. That detail will never change. I don’t care if my reader is 9 or 99; authenticity resonates with everyone.
Figuring out how much history to include in a book of historical fiction for a younger audience took me about two years. I didn’t want to write a history book; I wanted to tell a really funny, touching, engaging story that just happens to include historical facts. That is harder that it sounds and I hope I got it right. As a far the title goes, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel came to me in the middle of the night, when I often have my best ideas. The minute I heard it, I knew that was it. It was a great feeling.
Firoozeh Dumas’s Deskie
I am a firm believer in having the right work environment. My writing desk must always be neat and clean but it’s equally important to have meaningful objects around me.
This is a 19th century engraving that I found in a Paris flea market. It is a detailed drawing of nine kinds of lice. (My husband’s reaction? “Put it somewhere so I don’t see it.”) I was drawn to the detail, and to the care that the artist took to recreate these creatures that everyone, myself included, would never look at willingly. It’s actually a beautiful engraving. I love that the artist made me look at lice in a different way. That is a great analogy for writing. Some of the best stories make us look at things that we normally brush aside. But in writing, like in this engraving, it’s all about detail and intention.
The small pot and kettle are my childhood toys from Abadan, Iran. Since I was writing for a younger audience, I wanted to have some objects that would take me back to my childhood and remind me of how I used to see life before I entered the complicated adult world.
The sea shells, the rocks and the piece of wood shaped like a foot, are the results of my favorite hobby, beach combing. I never know what I will find; it’s nature’s flea market. Beach combing is all about serendipity, which is my favorite English word. My career has been full of serendipity; I always believe that something good is around the corner. It’s funny how if you believe that, you begin to see it.
And last but not least, I like to be surrounded by my children’s art work. It’s nice to be reminded that someone loves me, even if I have writer’s block.
Written by Firoozeh Dumas
Publisher’s Synopsis: 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.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Clarion Books | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0544612310
Add this book to your collection: It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
About Firoozeh Dumas
Firoozeh Dumas was born in Abadan, Iran and grew up in Southern California. She is the New York Times best-selling author of Funny in Farsi and Laughing Without an Accent. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel is her first novel for young readers. She and her French husband have three children, all avid readers. Visit her website at www.firoozehdumas.com.
Discover more books like “It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel,” written by Firoozeh Dumas, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with Historical Fiction, Iran, and Cultural Wisdom; and be sure to follow along with our Selfie and a Shelfie series.