Kazem loves taking his family to Las Vegas. Before every visit, Nazireh holds the Koran above the doorframe, so that everyone in the family can walk underneath it—a ritual that will bring them good luck on their long drive. Kazem always stays at the Stardust Hotel, since he has a friend who hooks him up with a room for five dollars. Kazem usually plays blackjack, and almost always loses. But he keeps coming back for more. Kazem also enjoys the $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffet, which, he claims, justifies the hundreds of dollars he loses at gambling.
Naturally, Kazem’s love for American mass culture extends to Las Vegas, a popular tourist destination that’s sometimes seen as being excessively tacky. Notice also that this is one of the only passages in the book in which Firoozeh mentions the Koran (the holy book of Islam), or, by extension, Islam itself. When talking about Iranian culture, Firoozeh emphasizes food, gender norms, and her family, but not, for the most part, her religion.
Firoozeh hates Las Vegas because she’s old enough to remember the vacations her family used to take in Iran—they’d drive from Tehran to the Caspian Sea. In California, Firoozeh rarely even goes to the beach. However, on one occasion Kazem books a trip to Hawaii for his family. Firoozeh remembers Hawaii as “7-Eleven-by-the-Sea.” But the next year, Kazem books another Hawaiian vacation. This time, Firoozeh loves the tropical foliage and beautiful rainbows of the island. However, her parents find the trip boring because “there are no stores.”
The year after their second Hawaii vacation, the family drives to Yosemite National Park. At first, everyone is awed by the sight of the Yosemite Valley. But later, Uncle Nematollah, who’s staying with the family, notices a sign warning of bears. He and Nazireh then decide that they need to leave immediately. After the trip, Kazem decides that his favorite vacation spot, aside from Vegas, is the couch. Privately, Firoozeh decides that when she grows up she’ll travel the world in search of rainbows and bears.
It’s interesting to consider the differences between Kazem and Firoozeh’s ideas of a good trip. Kazem doesn’t become a resident of the U.S. until he’s an adult, and perhaps as a result he’s excited by seemingly minor details of American society, such as fast food or TV. Firoozeh, on the other hand, grows up with American culture all around her, which perhaps explains why she’s more eager to travel and see nature than Kazem is.