It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
Written by Firoozeh Dumas

Publisher’s Summary:
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 puka shell necklaces, pool parties, and flying fish can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home.

Primary Source Pairing:
The story It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel invites the reader to sit in a front row seat to see the challenges and celebrations of an immigrant family. Told in Zomorod’s (Cindy) voice, the story unfolds as they settle into Newport Beach. When the Iran Hostage Crisis begins on November 4, 1979, the fears of Zomorod and her parents give the reader a personal connection to history and what was happening in the United States during that time. In the Author’s Note, Firoozeh Dumas writes: “I hope reading this book will increase your interest in history. I used to think that history was just about memorizing dates of battles, but history really is stories about people and the battles we fight within” (pg. 974).

For this primary source pairing, invite students to study a newspaper from January 20, 1981, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated and later announced the hostages in Iran were free. Use this newspaper to build background knowledge and continue to increase students’ interest in history. To pair the text from the book with this newspaper, use the chapter titled “January 20, 1981” on page 347 and discuss Zomorod’s and her family’s elation when they discover the hostage crisis is over.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What text do you notice first?
  • What details indicate when this was published?
  • Who do you think was the audience for this publication?
  • What can you tell about the point of view of the people who produced this?
  • How would this be different if produced today? How would this be the same?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
New York Times, front page, January 20, 1981:

Additional Resources:
Music mentioned in It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
Collection of Historical Videos: