6th Grade and Up
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 fresh 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.
The name Zomorod and the fact that this story takes place in Newport Beach were the first things that grabbed my attention. To make it easier for me, I’m just going to call Cindy/Zomorod Cindy Z.
This book is a semi-autobiographical novel, which means that parts of it really happened in the author’s real life and the other parts were modified to fit the story. This story has a perfect blend of serious historical events and fun daily life moments. It’s rare to find a middle school novel that is both a coming of age story and a history lesson all in one. I think this is the kind of story every kid should read. It’s good for kids to see through the eyes of someone who is different than them. It opens up their minds to understanding different ways of life.
I’ve read so much middle school fiction that I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what your background or your nationality is, all tweens have two things in common: 1) a need to fit in and 2) are embarrassed by their parents.
Until Iran started showing up on the news, no one seemed to know that Iran even existed, much less knew it was a country. At least that’s what a majority of the people Cindy Z meets seem to think. Before I started reading, my dad gave me a quick history lesson on the Iranian Revolution as well as his own life experience during the time. It is quite the accomplishment to explain such a complex subject in a way that is understandable.
I learned so much that it would be impossible for me to summarize it all so I’m just going to share a few of the differences between living in Iran and America:
- Iranians don’t have freedom of speech, so they can’t complain about the shah. Americans are allowed to complain about anything and everything.
- Families are close in Iran, they usually have an older relative living with them. American grandparents either live on their own or in senior homes.
- In Iran schools, it’s cool to be smart and good at math. In American schools, you’re teased for actually using your brain.
There are many more differences but I’ll just leave off here.
The way Americans treated the Iranian’s living in America made me sick. They weren’t even in Iran and Americans treated them like they were somehow responsible for all the bad things happening. Do you remember in school, when some jerk would do something bad and everyone in the class had to pay the price? That’s kind of like what happened to the Iranian’s living in America because of all the bad things happening in Iran. There’s always that one jerk who ruins it for everyone else. When are people going to learn that one bad person shouldn’t condemn an entire race?
As much as I liked learning about Iran and the Iranian Revolution, I really enjoyed the chapters about Cindy Z’s daily life moments, like Halloween and Girl Scout camping trips. I especially love the part when Cindy Z and her parents had pumpkin pie for the first time on Thanksgiving.
As a small bonus, here’s is a small fraction of the many amazing quotable lines from this story.
“My dad always says that kindness is our religion and if we treat everybody the way we would like to be treated, the world would be a better place.”
“People who hate just happen to be the loudest.” (I love this quote because it’s so true)
“It was only when I stopped pretending to be someone else that I found my real friends.”
“Let us all remember that everyone has a story, and everyone’s story counts.”
I’m not going to pick apart this story any more than I already have. Just read the book. You won’t regret it.
If you want to learn more about Firoozeh Dumas, click on her website link below: