Sunday, 11 January 2009

Digging to America by Ann Tyler

DATE PUBLISHED: 2007 DATE READ: January 2009 NOTES: In August 1997 two Baltimore families meet for the first time at the airport as they both await the arrival of their adoptive daughters from Korea. From then on their lives become interlinked as they share family parties and celebrations. The Donaldsons (Bitsy and Brad) are noisy, brash and confident while the Yazdans are much more self-contained and uncertain of their own place in American society. Ziba immigrated from Iran while her husband had been born in the US following his mother’s arrival from Iran. The families have differing attitudes to their children. Bitsy feels it is important that Jin-Ho learns about her background and endeavours to dress her in Korean clothes and teach her Korean songs. Ziba gives little thought to any of this and Sooki’s name is soon changed to Susan and all her toys and clothes are very much American. (I would have liked to hear more about how their differing upbringing affected the girls – they both seemed to emerge as bright and confident and very similar in many ways) Over the years the two extended families meet up regularly and get to know and like each other. But at the same time there are irritations and petty annoyances as cultural differences emerge. Not a great deal happens in the story but the characters come alive and the book deals well with feelings of belonging and alienation. Ziba’s mother-in-law Maryam emerges as a strong and interesting person. By the end she becomes the central character and I found myself rooting for her! A charming book written in a clear style with some lovely insights.

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