Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Digging to AmericaDigging to America by Anne Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anne Tyler is a master at writing about the little day to day things that occupy our lives while subtly teaching us amazing things. In Digging to America she tells the story of two American families.

One is a family of European descent, made up of people one expects in suburbia. There's Bitsy and Brad Donaldson. Bitsy is a well intentioned woman, but one who likes to encourage others to do things her way. Brad is an easy going man who not only goes along with Bitsy's ideas but seems to enjoy them. Bitsy's dad is also an important part of this family. He's a widower who is lonely and looking for someone with whom to share the rest of his life.

The second American family is the Yazdans. These are people of Iranian descent who have settled in America. The politics in Iran drove them out of that country, but there is very little focus on that aspect of their culture. In this family there is Sami, a man who has been raised in America and his wife, Ziba, who grew up in Iran. Maryam is Sami's mother. She is a widow whose arranged marriage had some problems.

The two families meet at an airport where both the Donaldsons and the Yazdans are awaiting the arrival of daughters they have adopted from Korea. The two families become friends and learn from each other as their children grow.

This novel speaks to topics such as adoption and going on after losing a spouse. But it's main focus is on defining (or questioning) what is an American family.

I was glad I read this book now, since at the time I'm writing this we are in the process of picking candidates to run for President. The issue of how to treat Muslims is going to be huge in this election. This book gives us a picture of an average Muslim family. They have issues, like everyone else, and some of those issues concern a background with problems due to Iranian politics. But they are focused on raising their child and on their relationships with their friends, just like the rest of us. I think a book like this helps us remember that people are people and that using a religious belief as a rational to create databases that track people and limit their freedoms is a dangerous step and one that does not make the world a safer place.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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