Reading Frenzy

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Digging to America by Anne Tyler


DIGGING TO AMERICA by Anne Tyler

Two couples and their extended families meet at the Baltimore airport in 1997 as they wait for their adopted Korean babies. The families couldn't be more different, Bitsey and Brad Donaldson are a combination of yuppy and hippie (natural foods, cloth diapers) while Sami and Ziba Yasdan along with grandma Maryam are upper class Iranians (Sami was actually born in the U.S.). Bitsey and Brad have a huge and noisy extended family along with them, with buttons and banners and video cameras in comparison to the quiet and contained three Yasdans.

The families form a friendship as the result of welcoming their new Korean babies together, and the book tells of their growing affection and appreciation of one another as well as stumbles as a result of the different cultures, through a series of parties and get togethers. Sami and Ziba are anxious to be seen as Americans, and give their new daughter an English name, Susan, while Bitsey and Brad retain the Korean name, Jin-Ho. Much of the story surrounds Maryam, who outwardly attempts to fit into American culture while inwardly craving a solitary and customary Iranian lifestyle. When Bitsey's mother dies, her father and Maryam, two people who couldn't be more different, forge a rocky relationship.

This is a quiet book--there's not a lot of plot--more of it centers around encounters between the two families. It's a thoughtful look at the difficulty of being a stranger in a strange land, and the problems and rewards of two very different cultural families colliding and bonding.

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