Kazem grew up in Ahwaz, Iran. His father died young, and Kazem had to work with his siblings to support the family. To this day, Kazem is very close with his siblings and nephews and nieces—some of the happiest moments in his own life are days when his siblings had some good fortune.
The memoir doesn’t proceed chronologically, and instead jumps back and forth between Firoozeh’s experiences and those of other characters, particularly her father. This passage establishes the importance of family in Kazem’s life.
Kazem had a tough childhood, and he aspired to become rich one day. As an engineer, Kazem knew he’d never become rich. But, strangely, he never gave up on fantasies of “champagne and caviar,” and so he signs up for the American game show, Bowling for Dollars. Bowling for Dollars is a popular program at the time, and the game is very simple: if a contestant bowls two strikes in a row, they win the jackpot. Kazem tries out, and he’s invited to the taping of the show.
Kazem’s ambitions of wealth and success are amusing, since they take such extravagant forms, but they also reflect his love for the American Dream. This is what makes Kazem such a loveable character: it’s easy to laugh at him, but his persistence and ambition make him admirable and perhaps even heroic.
On the day of the taping, Kazem drives to the studio, very excited. He comes home miserable; he only hit seven pins, meaning that he only won seven dollars. When the program airs, the family watches Kazem bowl on TV: he seems really nervous. Shortly afterwards, he gives up bowling.
Funny in Farsi is a funny book, and much of the comedy stems from Kazem’s misunderstandings and false sense of confidence, which often doesn’t stand up well to reality.