05 September 2007

Review - Digging to America by Anne Tyler

I loved this book. Two families, one your typical Caucasian (loud and opinionated), another immigrants from Iran, are thrown together when they both adopt Korean daughters. It's a mismatch, and the Iranian grandmother, Maryam, can't understand why her son, Sami, and his wife, Ziba, want to cultivate the relationship. They, on the other hand, can't understand why she refuses to give up her outsider perspective. It's a beautiful story, tied together by the daily, the mundane, even, which is what I love about Tyler (who could never be mundane).
The book is anything but maudlin, but the end touched me. There I am, walking the dog, sweaty because I had just been running (and was really walking the dog because I've told myself that my iPod audibles are reserved for running and walking, or else I'd never take the buds out of my ears), and just past the lawn crew at the elementary school by my house, I start crying. Not the heaving, hyperventilating bawl, but silent tears.
You get so caught up in Tyler's characters that you don't care what they're doing so long as you can stay with them. Finishing the book is like saying goodbye as a friend moves away.
Another great aspect about this book is the multi-cultural element. You've got the Iranian emigrants and the combination of some of them more or less trying to fit in and others more or less preserving their culture. It's the old question of fitting in: with whom are you going to choose to try to fit in? How are you going to choose your identity? [This question is of interest to me because my character, Itzel, deals with the same issue, so I especially paid attention to how Tyler revealed this.] You've got the different parental responses to adopting from another culture: the Caucasians trying to keep their daughter aware of her Korean roots and the Iranians not worrying about it: letting their daughter wear jeans to the party, for instance, instead of a kimono. I loved the Iranian perspective on North Americans. How does Tyler do that? How does she convince you that she's actually Iranian? Brilliant.


Jenn said...

It sounds like JUST my type of book. I can't wait to read it. For other attempts at multi-cultural fiction, stay tuned for my kids' novel, due out in May . . .

Heather said...

I can't wait to read it, Jenn! Especially if it has a multi-cultural aspect!