Tuna Fish and Salad Forks, by Arraha Sindalish, is a
masterpiece of a social commentary. The story is purportedly auto-biographical
as it features a Persian man attempting to become incorporated into American
culture. It does not have the same preachy sort of tone that many pieces on
ethnic diversity seem to take on when discussing American life. Instead, it
follows the comedic adventures of Baback and his very white bred neighbor, Jack
Schiffer, in a farming community of North Carolina,
called Southern Alamance. In fact, Baback had
been attempting to move to New York but all of
his luggage and furniture got accidentally shipped to North Carolina. After several days of poor
communication with locals and a few misadventures involving sleeping cows and
souped-up tractors, Baback Batmanghelidj decides that he could get used to
Southern farm life.
In turn, he teaches Jack about his own Persian culture and
about how Iran
is not composed of terrorists and rug makers. Baback shares the mystery of
hashish with Jack, who in turn imparts the wisdom of whisky (since alcohol is
banned in Iran).
These crazy, late nights give the reader plenty not only to think about, but
also to laugh about. All racism is thrown off, stereotypes knocked down, and
quite a few substances consumed. Jack shows Baback that not all of the American
South is full of hicks, rednecks, and racists (although the chapter about the
Ku Klux Klan is not to be missed).
I would not recommend that the reader take this work too
seriously: it is not about mocking itself and would be best devoured by the
pool with a beer or two. And don’t forget the tuna fish.
I would also recommend this to any college-level English
classes looking to broaden their world view without stepping out of their