Firoozeh has a cousin named Farbod. Although his name means “Greatness” in Persian, his American peers call him “Farthead.” Like Farbod, Firoozeh never realized that her name would be such an obstacle to assimilating in America. Firoozeh’s name literally means “turquoise,” but growing up, Firoozeh becomes accustomed to Americans being unable to pronounce it. Firoozeh’s last name is difficult for Americans to pronounce, too—although, at her father’s request, she won’t use it in this book. Later on, however, when Firoozeh was studying at Berkeley, her name attracted people “like flies to baklava.” Firoozeh found these people “refreshingly nonjudgmental.”
Although Firoozeh becomes increasingly comfortable in her adopted country, her name acts as a barrier, causing other people to perceive her as being “different,” even though she speaks the same language and grew up in the same culture. Conversely, Firoozeh’s name strikes some of her Berkeley classmates because they find it interesting. (One could also argue that this is another form of “soft bigotry,” since her classmates exoticize her name and may treat her somewhat condescendingly—however, Firoozeh doesn’t entertain this possibility.)
When Firoozeh and her family return to California to live in Newport, Firoozeh announces that she wants to use an American name from now on. She settles on Julie, and her brothers choose “Fred” and “Sean” for themselves. From then on, Firoozeh is “Julie” in school. Because she is fair-skinned and speaks English with an American accent by now, many people assumed she’d been born and raised in the U.S. Unfortunately, this means that Firoozeh grows up hearing Americans express their real feelings about “those damn I-raynians.” After graduating Berkeley with honors, Firoozeh finds it almost impossible to get an interview. When she writes the name “Julie” on her resume, however, she finally gets job offers.
Firoozeh’s desire to fit in with her classmates leads her to adopt a more stereotypically American name, “Julie.” The persisting prejudices in the United States against Iranians then lead Firoozeh to use her American name even as an adult. Nevertheless, she does this out of pragmatism, rather than embarrassment—she’s clearly proud of her Iranian roots, and in fact her memoir is a celebration of these roots.
After getting married, Firoozeh goes by the name Julie Dumas, but everyone in her family calls her Firoozeh. Sometimes, she says, she feels as if her life is a big knot. Eventually, she decides to go back to using her Iranian name. This creates new problems, however—once, someone pronounces her name as “Fritzy Dumbass.” Nevertheless, Firoozeh finds that Americans are now somewhat more willing to learn new names than they were when she was a child.
In this chapter, Firoozeh has been uncharacteristically negative about Americans’ treatment of foreigners. However, she ends the chapter on an optimistic note, emphasizing Americans’ growing tolerance and curiosity about other cultures.