Friday, June 23, 2006


Doris Dixon reviews DIGGING TO AMERICA by Anne Tyler (Knopf, 2006).

When does a foreign-born person stop being an outsider?

One afternoon at the Baltimore airport, two families--one white, the other Iranian American--wait for their newly adopted daughters to arrive from Korea. Soon afterward, Bitsy and Brad Donaldson and Sami and Ziba Kazdan meet for dinner. Over time, the lives of the two couples become intertwined as their extended families gather each year to celebrate "Arrival Day," the anniversary of their daughters' first day in America. But are the two families close? Sami's mother Maryam doubts it. Now a widow, Maryam joined her new husband in the United States years before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. She is very familiar with the customs and language, but still feels like a foreigner. She blames Americans like the Donaldsons with their unstated rules of etiquette and fascination with the exotic. With the help of an unlikely new suitor, Maryam learns that most people, even those born in the United States, feel like outsiders at one point or another. Anne Tyler's seventeenth novel will appeal to readers who enjoy thoughtful, character-driven stories.

Doris Dixon, Raleigh Branch Library

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This does not sound like Anne Tyler's typical fare, but I'm not all that surprised that she wrote it. Tyler is married, after all, to an Iranian psychologist, and she must have a first-hand knowledge of some of the issues she addresses here.
Hey Gregg,

The bit of biographical information that you've provided about Tyler is very interesting. This book has an almost "anthropological feel" like a case study of two-generations of Iranian-Americans. It was fascinating. But, as another reviewer noted, "...something was missing.... [and that] was style. What was missing was language used for anything more than conveying information precisely and perfectly. There was barely a metaphor, never a symbol, not a word to distract the reader from the realism. The writing was totally transparent. The reader was not meant to focus on, or even notice the words, they were just the medium; the message was the thing."

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this booked. The central character Maryam Kazdan deserves three more books about her. I will not go on and on like I did about Elphaba in comments to some other posts....
...of course I LIED about not going on and on....

I bet it makes me some authors *FUME* when readers make simplistic speculations about their private lives such as

"Ms. Tyler, did your mother-in-law inspire the character Maryam Kazdan?"

Such speculations are fun to make nevertheless...
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