Thursday, February 17, 2011

Five Umbrellas: Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sequels are very tricky things, but Fitzgerald hits all the right notes with this follow-up to her acclaimed "Veil of Roses." Veil of Roses is one of my top five all-time favorite books from a lifetime of voracious reading. I love its writing and message so much that I use it as a supplemental text for one of the classes I teach. I've often imagined what a potential sequel might look like, as these are characters that just refuse to leave the reader's head. Dreaming in English lives up to all my hopes as we follow Tami from the happy ending of Veil of Roses to her REAL happily-ever-after once she navigates all the hurdles that still remained at the end of Veil of Roses--INS, Ike's parents, job/life direction issues, family problems, and her parents still remaining in Iran with their own stories left unfinished.

I chose Veil of Roses as a class text in large part because of the large number of themes touched on--it is perfect discussion group text and readers from older teens to retirees all find something to connect with and worth discussing. Dreaming in English is also an absolutely ideal discussion/book club group book. Ideally readers will have read Veil of Roses, , but Fitzgerald works in enough recapping that this isn't strictly necessary (in fact, if like me, a reader has read Veil of Roses often enough to have entire sections committed to memory or finished Veil of Roses immediately prior to starting this book, the recapping might feel a bit much, but Fitzgerald does a nice job of integrating into the narrative and avoiding info-dumping).

Tami, Ike, and all their family and friends feel like real people, and they are richly drawn so that readers are very invested in their lives and problems--this is one of the great strengths of Fitzgerald's writing. Even when the characters make choices or actions that we disagree with, they feel real and true for that character and open up new avenues for discussion and analysis.

This book is particularly relevant right now in light of all the discussion surrounding immigration, particularly in Arizona, where the book is set. With all the controversy surrounding immigrants from South of the Border, seeing immigration through Persian eyes allows readers to take a step back and really consider what freedom means. This is the great triumph of the book: giving readers a fresh take on Freedom. If Veil of Roses carried the message that one must never give up hope, then Dreaming in English carries a two-fold message: Freedom is Hard and One Must Believe Oneself Worthy of It. "I am Worthy" sums up Tami's journey here--from being happily surprised with her good fortune at the end of Veil of Roses to being willing and able to go forth and actively create and demand that good fortune. Sharing her journey was a privilege.


  1. I read "Veil of Roses" a few years ago and agree it is a truly remarkable piece of writing. It made a list of top 100 books to read for our times, and it is already considered a classic (as in: a masterpiece).

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