Thursday, December 10, 2015

Anne Tyler - Digging to America

@Knopf publishers
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One fine day the airport at Baltimore witnesses the arrival of two little baby girls from Korea.  There are two families present to welcome the girls into their family. Brad and Bitsy Donaldson are there in full force with their families and are busy taking videos of the event.

Sami and Ziba Yazdan are also there with Sami's mother Maryam.  They get talking with the Brad and Bitsy at the airport and become friends.  Soon they are swept into Bitsy's social circle.  They are having dinners together, comparing notes on bringing up the children and becoming close.

This intimacy brings joys to both the parties and also the attendant problems which are mainly to do with the different cultural backgrounds that the families belong to.  Ziba feels intimidated by Bitsy's directives on how children should be raised.  Bitsy wants Jin Ho, her baby, to stick to her Korean roots.  Sami's mother, Maryam, notices all the goings on between the family.  She is often invited to the parties and reciprocates the gesture by inviting them all to her place for Iranian dinners.

Things get complicated when Bitsy's father, Dave becomes interested in Maryam.  Maryam has been living alone for a long time and does not like the way her life is rearranged because of Dave's intrusions.  She likes having him around but does not want to change for him.

This seemingly simple story about the lives of two families reveals many layers.  Maryam had come over to America from Iran after marrying Sami's father.  This story is also about how she assimilated into American life and also managed to hang on to her identity as an Iranian woman, mainly through food and language. She visits her cousins from time to time and observes how they are getting along with their life.

Ziba and Sami, being second generation US citizens, are more anxious to live like Americans.  They call their adopted daughter Susan and don't want to foist any other identity on their child.

This novel brings out the essence of America; how it accommodates to include various immigrants.  It celebrates differences and celebrates the richness that differences bring into our lives.

The writing style is quintessential Tyler.  A quiet unassuming prose, seemingly busy in just describing everyday events to the readers until they are drawn into the story and living the lives of the characters.



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