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1. Firoozeh says that humor differs from one culture to the next, but it also varies from person to person. Is there something that you find hilarious that others don’t?
2. In Laughing Without an Accent, Firoozeh uses humor to tackle some very difficult topics–like the death of a loved one in “Seyyed Abdullah Jazayeri,” or Iranian censorship of her previous book in “Funny in Persian.” Do you believe humor is appropriate in all situations? Or are there times when it is not appropriate?
3. Cultural norms are very different from country to country, such as all middle-class families having servants in Iran, unlike in the United States. After reading Laughing Without an Accent, which stood out for you? Are there any from other cultures that you have encountered that surprised you?
4. In “Maid in Iran,” we learn that Firoozeh’s father changed the life of the maid’s son by making sure he had access to education. Do you believe that we each have the power to change the course of someone’s life? Why or why not? Who in this culture, besides Oprah, changes lives?
5. In “The Jester and I,” a slightly misused word causes a great mix-up. Discuss a time when language barriers or mishaps have caused confusion for you.
6. School is very different in Iran than it is in America. Many Americans believe that the educational system in the United States is failing many of its students. If you agree, what changes would you make? Why is it difficult to make changes? What are the obstacles?
7. In “My Achilles’ Meal,” we see that Firoozeh’s parents felt she was too young to deal with the death of her grandmother. Each culture, and each family, deals with death in a particular way. How does your family deal with death?
8. Firoozeh is guilty of being “the boy who cried wolf” in “Me and Mylanta.” Have you ever had a similar experience? Was it difficult to regain the trust of the person involved?
9. Everybody’s family embarrasses them. Discuss family quirks that cause you to cringe.
10. It may be true that both kids and adults rely too much on television to entertain them. Do you think not having a tele- vision would make someone more creative, or unlock some creativity that has been stifled by hours of TV?
11. “In the Closet” proves that Firoozeh’s mother definitely believes that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Do you believe this is true?
12. Firoozeh writes about the challenges of finding appropriate clothing for her teenage daughter. How do you feel about the clothing choices available for tweens and teens, especially for girls? Do you think the type of clothing one wears affects one’s life?
13. Have you ever falsely accused someone of wrongdoing, as in “Doggie Don’t”? Did the accusation come back to bite you, as in Firoozeh’s case?
14. How would you feel if someone accused you of wrongdoing, or disliked you simply because of where you are from? How does the media’s portrayal of people from different countries shape how people feel about them?
15. Firoozeh describes some foods she finds disgusting, whether maggot cheese, bovine urine, or the unsettling andouillette described in “Last Mango in Paris.” Discuss a time when you were presented with food that you found difficult to eat. How did you react? Was your host offended? Some people travel so that they can try new foods; others do all they can to avoid trying new foods. Which could be said of you?
16. Selling a cross-shaped potato proved not to be the best get-rich-quick scheme for Firoozeh and her son. Have you ever tried a get-rich-quick scheme?
17. If you were to give a graduation speech, what bit of wisdom would you want to impart to the students?
18. Firoozeh made friends with an American once held hostage in Iran. What does this friendship say about the power of the ordinary person to act as a bridge builder? Do you think bridge building between nations is solely the job of politicians?
19. “Most immigrants agree that at some point, we become permanent foreigners, belonging neither here nor there.” If you are an immigrant yourself, or the child of an immigrant, do you agree with that statement? If you are not, what could you do to help the immigrants in your community feel at home?
20. What does the term “global citizen” mean to you? Do we have to lose something to become a global citizen, or do we simply gain? Firoozeh was born in Iran and raised in the United States, and is married to a Frenchman. She considers herself a global citizen. But how can others become global citizens? Does it involve living in another culture, or can we simply learn to think globally?
21. Firoozeh says that she thought guilt was a pillar in parenting. Do you know someone who uses guilt effectively? Have you ever used guilt? Did it work?