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.
ethnic demonstrations? Let the Donaldsons go to the Smithsonian for that! she thought peevishly. Let them read National Geographic! All she said to Ziba, though, was, “Won’t it be too much for you, on top of your weekend in Washington?” “Too much? Why, no,” Ziba said. “Or … are you saying it’s too much for you?” “Certainly not. I’m not the one going to Washington! But the Haftseen table, for instance. It would need to be set up ahead of time, and you will both be away.” There was no reason
floor, and they scrawled windows on the walls with a felt-tip marker. For a bed they lined a shoe box with one of Maryam’s scarves, although she warned them that most likely Moosh would refuse to use it. “Cats are too willful to sleep where you tell them to,” she said. Jin-Ho said, “Okay, the shoe box can be his bureau, then,” but Susan—who was fairly willful herself—said, “No! It’s his bed! I want it to be his bed!” “Well, I guess it won’t hurt to try,” Maryam told her. “And we’re going to
himself that now they could really get to know each other. How many grandfathers were given such a chance? And he did enjoy her company. She was a lively, inquisitive child, full of chatter, fond of board games, crazy about any kind of music. But he never completely lost an underlying sense of nervousness. She wasn’t really his, after all. What if something happened? When she went outdoors to play he found himself checking through the window for her every couple of minutes. When they crossed even
the narrow, untrafficked street she lived on he made her take his hand in spite of her objections. “My mom lets me cross without holding on,” she said, “as long as she’s beside me.” “Well, I’m not your mom. I’m a worrywart. Humor me, Jin-Ho.” Sometimes in the evening she would grow the least bit tremulous, once or twice even tearing up. “What do you think they’re doing now?” she would ask. Or, “How many more days till they’re back?” And occasionally she showed some impatience with his
they ask. He goes on laughing. ‘What is it?’ they ask. ‘I just realized,’ he tells them. ‘I don’t have to go to the States! They’re the ones who invited me. I don’t have to go, and I don’t want to go. I’m heading back home. Goodbye.’ ” Maryam said, “Ah, ah, ah,” again, although she must have heard this story before. “That’s a damned shame,” Dave said. Absurdly, he felt the urge to offer another apology. “And when Brad and Bitsy land in Baltimore,” Sami said, “have you thought about where their