Today is a special day. It’s the day ML was due to arrie in 2006. She didn’t. But a few years later my nephew did. Every year, I send him books for his birthday. This is the first year I wasn’t sure which direction to go. He’s at the age where children could be reading Easy Readers or as some parents like to brag, “books on a high school reading level.”
I did what every responsible Aunt does. I asked what he’s enjoying reading. My sister-in-law quickly responded Dog Man and Diary of a Wimpy Kid but thought I’d be hard pressed to find one he hadn’t read. This was music to my ears. My nephew has entered the independent chapter book reading stage of life. One where series are king. In later years he will reminisce about these characters he met and fell in love with as he was truly learning to be a reader. Not just someone who sounded out words.
I had a few ideas but consulted with ML too. A Diary of a Wimpy Kid series read-alike was easy. Timmy Failure started the amazon shopping cart. Mr Pants was added as T’s next graphic novel series to explore. I knew I wanted to send an I Survived book; but was at a loss of which one to order. ML helped with this. She suggested The Shark Attacks of 1916. Then, she reminded me how much she loved Geronimo Stilton at this age. With the edition of Geronimo Stilton: The Karate Mouse, our order was complete.
After the order shipped a new graphic novel arrived at the library. I read it Thursday night and there’s no doubt it would have been a perfect edition to the list. With Christmas around the corner, I’ve started a new cart. Yes, I am THAT aunt. The one who gives books. Come December 25th my nephew will also own Toby Goes Bananas. And a few other yet to be determined titles.
It wasn’t until I read It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozah Dumas that I delved into the history of the Iran Hostage Crisis, as an adult, instead of relying on my childhood memories. I’ve never insisted ML read a book. That may change. This book captures the awkwardness of middle school and the prejudices of others during a time in history that her old mother lived through. The summer before sixth grade is a perfect time to introduce this book to she and her friends.
This synopsis created by the publisher does a much better job than I could describing the book. “Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi.”
A day before I turned seven the Iran Hostage Crisis began. My only memories are the yellow ribbons, a man from the town over was a hostage, every night the news would update the number of days the hostages where in captivity and they weren’t released until Ronald Reagan was sworn in. They were hostages for 444 days. All of which I enjoyed the freedoms of living in a country where a girl could go to school, wear whatever clothes her mom would let her, climb trees, swim and compete with the boys. I had no knowledge that in a country across the ocean girls my age were losing rights.
Where I lived at the time, diversity of skin color was almost nonexistent Surrounded by White Anglo Saxon Protestants, the most diverse children in my grade where two Christian African Americans. I had never heard of Islam. Judaism or Catholicism. At that point in my life, you were either Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian. My family was probably considered liberal. We were members of the Methodist church, I attended preschool at the Presbyterian church and graduated from kindergarten at the Baptist church. I don’t think kindergarten started at my elementary school until 1979. My first year of elementary school coincided with the Iran Hostage Crisis.
While I was making cookie monsters and learning to read, I had no understanding of the challenges children around the world and even the United States suffered. In theory I knew there were starving children in Africa but (spoiler alert) a middle school girl from a different country finding a dead hamster left on her doorstep in the United States out of prejudice would have been incomprehensible.