Digging to America: A Novel
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Anne Tyler’s richest, most deeply searching novel–a story about what it is to be an American, and about Iranian-born Maryam Yazdan, who, after 35 years in this country, must finally come to terms with her “outsiderness.”
Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport – the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam’s fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the instant babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate: an “arrival party” that from then on is repeated every year as the two families become more and more deeply intertwined. Even Maryam is drawn in – up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by Bitsy Donaldson’s recently widowed father, all the values she cherishes – her traditions, her privacy, her otherness–are suddenly threatened.
A luminous novel brimming with subtle, funny, and tender observations that immerse us in the challenges of both sides of the American story.
skewers one by one and shift them to the platter, and then he lifted the grate so he could stir the coals apart with the tongs. His heartbeat was gradually slowing. The rage had dimmed and he was left feeling slightly foolish. When the screen door clicked shut, he turned to see Brad approaching. In his Orioles T-shirt and flapping shorts Brad looked mussed and uncomfortable. He stopped a foot or so away and swatted at some insect buzzing around his head. Then he said, “How you doing there?”
she had been so eager to say that this was her country, and she wasn’t sure why now should be any different. Bitsy must have noticed, because instantly she said, “Oh, yes, she’s a lovely woman, and I am so, so pleased that things seem to be moving ahead with them.” Then they both changed the subject. Wasn’t Xiu-Mei the teeniest bit plumper? Ziba wanted to know, and Bitsy said she did seem plumper, now that Ziba mentioned it, and maybe they should weigh her. So they went upstairs to the bathroom,
have worked over a veil so that the crystals would not be speckling Maryam’s hair like a very bad case of dandruff. And it was never ground at proposals. That happened only at weddings. Either Dave had been gravely misinformed or else he had decided to redesign the whole tradition. Switch it around and embellish it. Americanize it, you might say. Maryam looked past the girls to the others: Bitsy smiling above her pitcher, Pat clasping her hands as if praying, Sami and Lou gaping, and Ziba
her parents’ car just as the rest of them were heading into the house—she turned out to be the type that lost her voice around grownups. She stopped short when she saw them all and she stuck a finger in her mouth. Jin-Ho called, “Athena! Hey!” but Athena only stood there, wearing a frilly white dress and holding a wrapped gift. “Go and welcome her,” Jin-Ho’s mother whispered. So Jin-Ho went down the front steps calling, “Come on! Come on!” in an encouraging way, and Athena started toward her
of them were all excellent cooks. Each had a different cuisine: Turkish, Greek, French, and Maryam’s own Iranian. It was no wonder they ate less and less frequently at restaurants. Dressing for an evening with her friends, Maryam felt none of the anxiety she used to feel dressing for social events in the old days. Back then she might change outfits several times before deciding what to wear, and she used to prepare a mental list of conversational gambits. It wasn’t just age that made the