2018 Visiting Author
Firoozeh Dumas, Iranian-American Memoirist & Novelist
Monday, April 23, 1:30 PM
in Cor Unum at Stuart
Firoozeh Dumas was born in Abadan, Iran and, in the 1970’s, moved to Southern California with her family. She later attended UC Berkeley where she met and married a Frenchman.
Firoozeh grew up listening to her father, a former Fulbright Scholar, recount the many colorful stories of his life in both Iran and America. In 2001, with no prior writing experience, Firoozeh decided to write her stories as a gift for her two children. Funny in Farsi was on the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times bestseller lists and was a finalist for the PEN/USA award in 2004 and a finalist in 2005 for an Audie Award for best audio book (she lost to Bob Dylan). She was also a finalist for the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor (she lost to Jon Stewart), and is the first Middle Eastern woman ever to be considered for this honor.
Critics and readers of all ages have loved her stories. Jimmy Carter called Funny in Farsi "a humorous and introspective chronicle of a life filled with love—of family, country and heritage.”
Over a dozen community reading programs have used Firoozeh's books for their citywide reads, all with great success. Firoozeh's stories appeal to all ages and backgrounds and her humor resonates with a wide audience. In addition, Funny in Farsi has become part of the curriculum in junior highs, high schools, and colleges around the country and is now on the California Recommended Reading List for grades 6-12. Educators have found that Firoozeh's books are a gateway to many conversations, including shared humanity, immigration, language, family, and identity. Firoozeh has spoken at educational conferences throughout the United States and in Europe and was awarded the Spirit of America Award in 2008 by the National Council of Social Studies. Former recipients of this award include Jimmy Carter, Rosa Parks, and Mr. Rogers. Her commentaries are often broadcast on NPR and published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Gourmet, Good Housekeeping, and Lifetime Magazine.
In April 2005, Firoozeh's one-woman show, "Laughing Without an Accent" opened in Northern California to sold out audiences at Theatreworks in Mountain View, California. Firoozeh incorporates much of what she learned from her one-woman show in her speeches, adding yet another layer of entertainment to her thought-provoking yet humorous talks.
For the past eleven years, Firoozeh has traveled the country reminding us that our commonalities far outweigh our differences. Her travels have taken her throughout rural America, from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Harvard University to UCLA and to Europe. Everywhere she has gone, audiences have embraced her message of shared humanity while laughing at her humorous tales.
Firoozeh Dumas’s second memoir, entitled Laughing without an Accent, was published in May 2008 and is a New York Times bestseller. Alexander McCall Smith had this to say: "These stories, like everything Firoozeh Dumas writes, are charming, highly amusing vignettes of family life. Dumas is one of those rare people -- a naturally gifted storyteller."
Her most recent book, a “tween” novel, It Aint So Awful, Falafel, was published in May 2016 to favorable reviews. It Aint So Awful, Falafel is a Kirkus 'starred' book and a 2016 Time Magazine Top 10 YA and Children’s Book In addition, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel was selected as the 2017 recipient of the California Library Association’s John and Patricia Beatty Award, as well as the New York Historical Society's 2017 New Americans Children’s History Book Prize. The story contains no vampires.
Connecting Students through Experience
At Stuart we believe that every student, from the youngest preschooler to the graduating senior, should read and hear the best contemporary writing of her day. Since 2008, Stuart's Visiting Author Program has brought some of the best contemporary writers to campus. Every year, the works of our Visiting Author are integrated into the curriculum at all levels. In addition, a select group of seniors, known as "Senior Scholars," design lessons and visit preschool - grade 8 classes to engage students with the work of the Visiting Author.
Bringing the Best Contemporary Authors to Stuart
We have hosted an incredibly diverse range of best-selling and award-winning authors, including Pulitzer Prize winners Paul Muldoon and Jhumpa Lahiri and best-selling authors Jonathan Safran Foer, Jane Hirshfield and Mark Salzman. The picture books, poems for girls, essays, fiction, and poetry collections of Naomi Shihab Nye shaped and inspired English and Language Arts classes, and novelist Edwidge Danticat gave our students a social awareness of the Haitian-American experience. In 2016, we were honored to work with the recently-appointed U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, and 2017 was a special treat as we were all, faculty and students alike, enchanted by the 21st Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, who writes poetry, novels and children's books from his Mexican American immigrant perspective. The success of the Visiting Author Program in our Lower and Middle School curricula in particular is one of our proudest achievements.
Lies, Light and McCarthy
The Visiting Author Program was the dream of a beloved alumna, faculty member, and former English department head, Victoria Flournoy McCarthy '71. The program was initially supported by a fund named after Stuart's three former English department heads: Betty Lies, Nancy Light and Victoria McCarthy, and is now integrated into the academic program at Stuart.