Digging to America

Digging to America

by Anne Tyler

Hardcover(Large Print)

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller

Rich, tender, and searching, Digging to America challenges the notion that home is a fixed place, and celebrates the subtle complexities of life on all sides of the American experience.

Two families meet at the Baltimore airport while waiting for their baby girls to arrive from Korea. The Iranian-American Sami and Ziba Yazdan, with Ziba's elegant and reserved mother, Maryam, in tow, wait quietly while brash and all-American Bitsy and Brad Donaldson, plus extended family, are armed with camcorders and a fleet of balloons proclaiming "It's a girl!" After they decide together to throw an impromptu "arrival party," a tradition is born, and so begins a lifelong friendship between the two families.

As they raise their daughters, the Yazdan and Donaldson families grapple with questions of assimilation and identity. When Bitsy's recently widowed father sets his sights on Maryam, she must confront her own idea of what it means to be other, and of who she is and what she values.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739326428
Publisher: Diversified Publishing
Publication date: 05/02/2006
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.67(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

ANNE TYLER is the author of more than twenty novels. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hometown:

Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

October 25, 1941

Place of Birth:

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Education:

B.A., Duke University, 1961

Read an Excerpt

At eight o'clock in the evening, the Baltimore airport was nearly deserted. The wide gray corridors were empty, and the newsstands were dark, and the coffee shops were closed. Most of the gates had admitted their last flights. Their signboards were blank and their rows of vinyl chairs unoccupied and ghostly.

But you could hear a distant hum, a murmur of anticipation, at the far end of Pier D. You could see an overexcited child spinning herself into dizziness in the center of the corridor, and then a grownup popping forth to scoop her up and carry her, giggling and squirming, back into the waiting area. And a latecomer, a woman in a yellow dress, was rushing toward the gate with an armful of long-stemmed roses.

Step around the bend, then, and you'd come upon what looked like a gigantic baby shower. The entire waiting area for the flight from San Francisco was packed with people bearing pink- and blue-wrapped gifts, or hanging on to flotillas of silvery balloons printed with IT'S A GIRL! and trailing spirals of pink ribbon. A man gripped the wicker handle of a wheeled and skirted bassinet as if he planned to roll it onto the plane, and a woman stood ready with a stroller so chrome-trimmed and bristling with levers that it seemed capable of entering the Indy 500. At least half a dozen people held video cameras, and many more had regular cameras slung around their necks. A woman spoke into a tape recorder in an urgent, secretive way. The man next to her clasped an infant's velour-upholstered car seat close to his chest.

MOM, the button on the woman's shoulder read--one of those man's read DAD. A nice-looking couple, not as young as you might expect--the woman in wide black pants and an arty black-and-white top of a geometric design, her short hair streaked with gray; the man a big, beaming, jovial type with a stubbly blond buzz cut, his bald knees poking bashfully from voluminous khaki Bermudas.

And not only were there MOM and DAD; there were GRANDMA and GRANDPA, twice over--two complete sets. One grandma was a rumpled, comfortable woman in a denim sundress and bandanna-print baseball cap; the other was thin and gilded and expertly made up, wearing an ecru linen pantsuit and dyed-to-match pumps. The grandpas were dyed to match as well--the rumpled woman's husband equally rumpled, his iron-gray curls overdue for a cutting, while the gilded woman's husband wore linen trousers and some sort of gauzy tropical shirt, and part of his bright yellow hair was possibly not his own.

It's true there were other people waiting, people clearly not included in the celebration. A weary-eyed woman in curlers; an older woman with a younger one who might have been her daughter; a father with two small children already dressed in pajamas. These outsiders stood around the edges, quiet and somehow dimmed, from time to time sneaking glances in the direction of MOM and DAD.

The plane was late. People grew restless. A child pointed out accusingly that the arrivals board still read ON TIME--a plain old lie. Several teenagers wandered off to the unlit waiting area just across the corridor. A little girl in pigtails fell asleep on a vinyl chair, the button on her green plaid blouse proclaiming COUSIN.

Then something changed. There wasn't any announcement--the PA system had been silent for some time--but people gradually stopped talking and pressed toward the jetway, craning their necks, standing on tiptoe. A woman in a uniform punched in a code and swung open the jetway door. A skycap arrived with a wheelchair. The teenagers reappeared. MOM and DAD, till now in the very center of the crowd, were nudged forward with encouraging pats, a path magically widening to let them approach the door.

First off was a very tall young man in jeans, wearing the confused look of someone who'd been flying too long. He spotted the mother and daughter and went over to them and bent to kiss the daughter, but only on the cheek because she was too busy peering past him, just briefly returning his hug while she kept her eyes on the new arrivals.

Two businessmen with briefcases, striding purposefully toward the terminal. A teenage boy with a backpack so huge that he resembled an ant with an oversized breadcrumb. Another businessman. Another teenage boy, this one claimed by the woman in curlers. A smiling, rosy-cheeked redhead instantly engulfed by the two children in pajamas.

Now a pause. A sort of gathering of focus.

A crisply dressed Asian woman stepped through the door with a baby. This baby was perhaps five or six months old--able to hold herself confidently upright. She had a cushiony face and a head of amazingly thick black hair, cut straight across her forehead and straight across the tops of her ears, and she wore a footed pink sleeper. "Ah!" everyone breathed--even the outsiders, even the mother and the grown daughter. (Although the daughter's young man still appeared confused.) The mother-to-be stretched out both arms, letting her tape recorder bounce at the end of its strap. But the Asian woman stopped short in an authoritative manner that warded off any approach. She drew herself up and said, "Donaldson?"

"Donaldson. That's us," the father-to-be said. His voice was shaking. He had somehow got rid of the car seat, passed it blindly to someone or other, but he stayed slightly to the rear of his wife and kept one hand on her back as if in need of support.

"Congratulations," the Asian woman said. "This is Jin-Ho." She transferred the baby to the mother's waiting arms, and then she unhitched a pink diaper bag from her shoulder and handed it to the father. The mother buried her face in the crook of the baby's neck. The baby stayed upright, gazing calmly out at the crowd. "Ah," people kept saying, and "Isn't she a cutie!" and "Did you ever see such a doll?"

Flashbulbs, insistent video cameras, everyone pressing too close. The father's eyes were wet. Lots of people's were; there were sniffing sounds all through the waiting area and noses being blown. And when the mother raised her face, finally, her cheeks were sheeted with tears. "Here," she told the father. "You hold her."

"Aw, no, I'm scared I might . . . You do it, honey. I'll watch."

The Asian woman started riffling through a sheaf of papers. People still disembarking had to step around her, step around the little family and the well-wishers and the tangle of baby equipment. Luckily, the flight hadn't been a full one. The passengers arrived in spurts: man with a cane, pause; retired couple, pause . . .

And then another Asian woman, younger than the first and plainer, with a tucked, apologetic way of looking about. She was lugging a bucket-shaped infant carrier by the handle, and you could tell that the baby inside must not weigh all that much. This baby, too, was a girl, if you could judge by the pink T-shirt, but she was smaller than the first one, sallow and pinched, with fragile wisps of black hair trailing down her forehead. Like the young woman transporting her, she showed a sort of anxious interest in the crowd. Her watchful black eyes moved too quickly from face to face.

The young woman said something that sounded like "Yaz-dun?" "Yaz-dan," a woman called from the rear. It sounded like a correction. The crowd parted again, not certain which way to move but eager to be of help, and three people no one had noticed before approached in single file: a youngish couple, foreign-looking, olive-skinned and attractive, followed by a slim older woman with a chignon of sleek black hair knotted low on the nape of her neck. It must have been she who had called out their name, because now she called it again in the same clear, carrying voice. "Here we are. Yazdan." There was just the trace of an accent evident in the ruffled r's.

The young woman turned to face them, holding the carrier awkwardly in front of her. "Congratulations, this is Sooki," she said, but so softly and so breathlessly that people had to ask each other, "What?" "Who did she say?" "Sooki, I believe it was." "Sooki! Isn't that sweet!"

There was a problem unfastening the straps that held the baby in her carrier. The new parents had to do it because the Asian woman's hands were full, and the parents were flustered and unskilled--the mother laughing slightly and tossing back her explosive waterfall of hennaed curls, the father biting his lip and looking vexed with himself. He wore tiny, very clean rimless glasses that glittered as he angled first this way and then that, struggling with a plastic clasp. The grandmother, if that was who she was, made sympathetic tsk-tsking sounds.

But at last the baby was free. Such a little bit of a thing! The father plucked her out in a gingerly, arm's-length manner and handed her to the mother, who gathered her in and rocked her and pressed her cheek against the top of the baby's feathery black head. The baby quirked her eyebrows but offered no resistance. Onlookers were blowing their noses again, and the father had to take off his glasses and wipe the lenses, but the mother and the grandmother stayed dry-eyed, smiling and softly murmuring. They paid no attention to the crowd. When someone asked, "Is yours from Korea too?" neither woman answered, and it was the father, finally, who said, "Hmm? Oh. Yes, she is."

"Hear that, Bitsy and Brad? Here's another Korean baby!"

The first mother glanced around--she was allowing the two grandmas a closer inspection--and said, "Really?" Her husband echoed her: "Really!" He stepped over to the other parents and held out his hand. "Brad Donaldson. That's my wife, Bitsy, over there."

"How do you do," the second father said. "Sami Yazdan." He shook Brad's hand, but his lack of interest was almost comical; he couldn't keep his eyes off his baby. "Uh, my wife, Ziba," he added after a moment. "My mother, Maryam." He had a normal Baltimore accent, although he pronounced the two women's names as no American would have--Zee-bah and Mar-yam. His wife didn't even look up. She was cradling the baby and saying what sounded like "Soo-soo-soo." Brad Donaldson flapped a hand genially in her direction and returned to his own family.

By the time the transfers had been made official--both Asian women proving to be sticklers for detail--the Donaldson crowd had started to thin. Evidently some sort of gathering was planned for later, though, because people kept calling, "See you back at the house!" as they moved toward the terminal. And then the parents themselves were free to go, Bitsy leading the way while the woman with the stroller wheeled it just behind her like a lady-in-waiting. (Clearly nothing would persuade Bitsy to give up her hold on that baby.) Brad lumbered after her, followed by a few stragglers and, at the very tail end, the Yazdans. One of the Donaldson grandpas, the rumpled one, dropped back to ask the Yazdans, "So. Did you have a long wait for your baby? Lots of paperwork and cross-examinations?"

"Yes," Sami said, "a very long wait. A very long-drawn-out process." And he glanced toward his wife. "At times we thought it never would happen," he said.

The grandpa clucked and said, "Don't I know it! Lord, what Bitsy and Brad had to put themselves through!"

They passed to one side of Security, which was staffed by a lone employee sitting on a stool, and started down the escalator--all but the man with the bassinet. He had to take the elevator. The woman with the stroller, however, seemed undaunted. She tipped the front end of the stroller back smartly and stepped on without hesitation.

"Listen," Brad called up to the Yazdans from the lower level. "You-all feel like coming to our house? Joining the celebration?" But Sami was absorbed in guiding his wife onto the escalator, and when he didn't answer, Brad flapped a hand again in that oh-well, affable way of his. "Maybe another time," he said to no one in particular. And he turned to catch up with the others.

The exit doors slid open and the Donaldsons streamed out. They headed toward the parking garage in twos and threes and fours, and shortly after that the Yazdans emerged to stand on the curb a moment, motionless, as if they needed time to adjust to the hot, humid, dimly lit, gasoline-smelling night.

Friday, August 15, 1997. The night the girls arrived.

Excerpted from Digging to America by Anne Tyler Copyright © 2006 by Anne Tyler. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. In calling their baby Susan, the Yazdans "chose a name that resembled the name she had come with, Sooki, and also it was a comfortable sound for Iranians to pronounce" [p. 10]. The Donaldsons keep their baby’s Korean name, Jin-Ho. What is the significance of these choices, both within the context of the novel and in the context of adoption in general? Is it important for an adoptive family to give children from another country or ethnic group a sense of their heritage? What insights does Ziba and Bitsy’s fractious disagreement about "Americanization" [p. 46] offer into this question?

2. Right from the start, Maryam feels a deep connection with Susan -- "something around the eyes, some way of looking at things, some onlooker’s look: that was what they shared. Neither one of them quite belonged" [p. 13]. Does Maryam’s pleasure in bonding with Susan hint at needs or emotions that she is unable or unwilling to acknowledge? To what extent does her insistence that she is "Still and forever a guest, on her very best behavior" [p. 15] serve as a convenient excuse for remaining aloof from other people?

3. What aspects of her heritage does Maryam value most and why? Why is she so unsettled by her visit to Iran and her reactions to Iranians in the country [p. 39]? Why is she annoyed when her cousin’s American husband sprinkles bits of Farsi into his conversation [p. 147]? Why has she raised Sami to be "more American than the Americans" [p. 83], even as she clings to her otherness?

4. Does Maryam’s behavior show that she feels not only estranged from American society but also in some way superior to it? What specific incidents and conversations bring this aspect of her personality to light?

5. In addition to being a wonderfully amusing vignette, what is the import of Sami’s "performance piece" [pp. 80-81]? Why does Tyler use humor and mockery to convey a serious point about Americans and how they appear to immigrants? Does the fact that Sami is American-born and-raised make his criticisms more credible (and perhaps more acceptable) than they would be if a newcomer to the country expressed them?

6. How does Maryam differ from Ziba’s parents and her cousin Farah, the other Iranian immigrants depicted in the novel? What factors, both practical and psychological, influence the characters’ desire and ability to make a place for themselves in American society? What do these varying portraits show about the process of assimilation? Are there inherent contradictions between accepting the culture of an adopted homeland and retaining one’s ethnic identity?

7. Compare and contrast Ziba and Bitsy. How do they differ as women? As mothers? Which woman is more sympathetically drawn? How does Tyler use both negative and positive attributes to bring each woman to life? How do the women’s individual approaches to motherhood influence the way they regard and evaluate each other? Is Ziba overly susceptible to Bitsy’s criticism and suggestions? Does her friendship with Ziba, as well as her frequent encounters with Maryam, affect Bitsy’s beliefs or behavior? Does the relationship between Ziba and Bitsy change over the course of the book?

8. How do the portraits of Sami and Brad compare to those of their wives? Are their personalities as richly described? Do they play parallel roles within their families? Is their behavior in relation to their children and wives a reflection of their personalities and the nature of their marriages, or do cultural patterns, expectations, and values also play a part?

9. Does the romance between Dave and Maryam unfold in a realistic way? In addition to Dave’s moving reaction to Connie death, what other events or conversations show that he contains a depth and a self-awareness that Maryam and the others seem oblivious to?

10. What does Maryam’s description of her courtship and marriage [pp. 155-160] add to our image of her? Why has she chosen to keep the story to herself, not even sharing it with Sami? 11. Discuss Maryam’s reaction to Dave’s proposal [pp. 211-214]. What does her conversation with Sami and Ziba reveal about her difficulties in reconciling her prejudices about Americans and her affection for Dave? In what ways do her protests also bring to light her ambivalent feelings about who she is and what she is willing to give up at this stage of her life? Why do you think Maryam makes the decision she does at the end of the book?

12. To what extent does Digging to America echo the themes and concerns Tyler explored in her previous novels? Do Tyler’s views on marriage and family here differ in significant ways from those presented in her earlier works? How does Digging to America compare to other books you have read that portray women trying to establish an identity apart from what is expected--or demanded--of them?

About this Book
Maryam Yazdan has accompanied her son, Sami, and daughter-in-law, Ziba, to the Baltimore airport to welcome the newest member of their family, a baby girl from Korea. Bitsy and Brad Donaldson, at the airport with their large, boisterous clan to pick up their own adopted infant, invite the Yazdans back to their home to celebrate. The "arrival day" party becomes an annual affair, one of many get-togethers the families share over the years. Maryam, an Iranian who came to America as a young bride more than thirty years earlier but still thinks of herself as an outsider, participates in these events with a mixture of pleasure, curiosity, and disdain. Her American-born son and his wife, who quickly embraced American culture when she came from Iran as a teenager, move more easily in the Donaldsons’ world. Tyler captures this world perfectly, conveying in wry and telling detail the combination of unstinting devotion, obsession, and competitiveness Sami and Ziba and Bitsy and Brad bring to their roles as modern American parents.

Maryam, who has come regard the Donaldsons with restrained but genuine affection, is taken aback when Bitsy’s widowed father, Dave, begins to court her. As their intimacy grows, Maryam finds herself caught between her attraction to Dave’s open, spirited charms and her desire to hold fast to the separateness that has defined her life in America. Their story, like the stories of their children and grandchildren, becomes in Tyler’s deft hands a wonderful exploration of the meaning of identity, home, and family.

Suggested Reading
Monica Ali, Brick Lane; Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents; Gelareh Asayesh, Saffron Sky; Andre Dubus III, House of Sand and Fog; Firoozeh Dumas, Funny in Farsi; Gish Jen, The Love Wife; Chang-rae Lee, Native Speaker; Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine; Nahid Rachlin, Foreigner; Zadie Smith, White Teeth

About the Author
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of seventeen novels, including Breathing Lessons, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Digging to America 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
On August 15, 1997 at the Baltimore airport, two couples each wait for the arrival of their newly adopted Korean infants. Bitsy and Brad Dickinson-Donaldson are openly ecstatic over their tiny Jin-Ho while a more subdued but just as elated Sami and Ziba Yazdan are exhilarated over their Sookie, who they rename Susan. In the waiting room, Bitsy and Brad host a baby shower gala with their family horde while the Yazdans only have his Iranian mother Maryam with them. Still this euphoric connection leads to a strong friendship between Bitsy and Brad Donaldson with.----- The extroverted Bitsy establishes an annual gala to celebrate Arrival Day. She and Ziba become especially close, but she fails in her efforts to reach out to Maryam, who detests the ugly Americans though she has been here for decades arriving as a teenage bride immigrant, whose son was born here and husband died here. She still feels like an outsider in the United States, but unwelcome in Iran. That suddenly changes when Bitsy¿s widower father Dave makes clear his intentions towards her that panic and exhilarate Maryam.----- DIGGING TO AMERICA is a great character study that digs deep into the adopting parents yet they, Dave and their respective children are secondary protagonists to the tale¿s prime player, Maryam. Readers will appreciate the support cast that includes the brashness of Bitsy the tenderness of Brad towards his two women the friendliness of Dave somewhat tamped by his grief for his wife and his need for Maryam Sami's aloofness toward Iran and America that frustrates his mom Ziba's exuberance towards the American dream for her baby. However, Maryam remains the focus as no one before Dave has gotten inside her perimeter, but he wonders if she will let him remain there. Anne Tyler provides a powerful contemporary tale that looks deep into the Americanization of Maryam that is worth reading.------ Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Digging to America was not what I invisioned from the title. It was a wonderful book about 2 families with different styles and backgrounds all wanting to be part of the American dream. The book features one traditional American (European background) family and a new American family (Mid-Eastern background). We learn about the fears, failures and joys of many of the characters. In the 40's it could have been about an Irish family instead of Middle Eastern.. the struggles are the same. How to merge the past, present and future together. What made this story even more intersting and complicated is that the story uses the adoption of two babies from the Korea as the focal point that creates the bond between all of the characters. If you only read one part of the book... read the one about getting rid of the pacifier. It was laugh out loud funny and one that could touch every mother.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, thru all of its writing, proves one thing over all. That is that people from one culture never, ever, completely trust those from another culture no matter how close they come to them and no matter how assimilated they become in the other's nation. This is too bad because all people should be able to get along because of their brain size, however, the only ones who seem to assimilate correctly and make a good life for themselves are animals (with small brains), and that is bad if we people are supposedly so much more 'gifted' than they are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read most of Anne Taylor's other works and have either loved or at least very much liked them. Digging to America however will not be in either of those categories. I felt like I didn't really get to know any of the many (too many), characters in this book. Yes, there were several flashbacks as to what they went through in prior years, but not enough so I would feel any sort of attachment toward or care about any of them. Also, there was not much insight as to why certain characters would feel the way they do toward each other or why they act the way they do. Sorry, just not my idea of a good book.
sharlene_w on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two families meet by chance while waiting the arrival of their adopted infants from Korea. They continue to meet each year to celebrate the anniversary of their girls' arrival into their families. I've enjoyed some of her other books more, but an interesting and enjoyable story. She also provides some interesting insights into perceptions of American immigrants.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My father passed away a couple of weeks ago, after a long illness. I was reading a book about parasitology at the time, and that seemed a little insensitive to take to a funeral. So I looked around for something more appropriate, for something having to do with families and quirky family relationships. In my mind, there is only one author who consistently fills that niche: Anne Tyler. Digging to America is the latest in a long line of her excellent books, any of which I would recommend. And, as I expected, my eyes misted over in the first five pages as I was introduced to Jin-Ho and Sooki, soon to be known as Susan, two Korean babies being adopted by an American and Iranian family, repectively. This is a warm, good-hearted story of how two very different families, thrown together accidentally, end up making a difference in each others lives. Most enjoyable, and the kind of book that always makes me remember what is important in life.
luvlylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Listened to the NLS Talking Book version. The book is interested by comparing and contrasting different cultural beliefs. Two vastly different sets of parents adopt infants on the same day and end up forging lifelong friendships. The friendship's are not without tension as both sides struggle to understand with and navigate their way through various relationships. The adopted children are not focused on very much in the book. It is mainly the story of their parents and grandparents.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first Anne Tyler book I've read, and it is one of my bookclub's choices. It is about two families who meet while waiting for the arrival of their baby daughters adopted from Korea. One family is American, one family is Iranian-American, and the story is about the interaction of the families. The characters and their finteractions are quite ralistic; for example, two women wind up with what niether of them want becasue they are too polite to say what they do want.
mumoftheanimals on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two families - one 'traditional' US, the other, successful 2nd generation immigrants, adopt from China and the babies arrive on the same plane. The book is about how the families approach a multi-tude of issues from keeping up with the Jones, infertility, overses adoption and so on. I am an adopted mother and a friend is adopted. The book 'talked' to neither of us. It was interesting and sometimes funny but not greatly insightful.
jopearson56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
2008 All Iowa Reads choice; I had to read it since I had offered to lead a book discussion about book at work. (Figured I knew how that would turn out based on past book discussions at a past job, but anyway ...) I didn't mind reading it, I like to read the All Iowa Reads books, still regret missing last years. The first Anne Tyler I've read, and I hear it is different from her other stuff, but I enjoyed this one. i liked the writing style a lot, so would be interested in trying another of her books to see. This was about two families who adoped Korena babies, one American and one Iranian immigrants, and how they came to be friends based on their daughters' cultural backgrounds and on the fact that they were in airport at same time to pick up babies. Turned out to be a romance, too, which was nice. I liked the ideas about "fitting in,' worth thinking about.
thevoice1208 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a quick read with some well defined characters. I'm not a big fan of Tyler's books so I can't compare it to others I've read.To me the main thread was the conflict between being yourself and trying to be someone you are not.
NancyChase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought that Anne Tyler created a super story in ¿Digging to America¿ The book portrayed some of the hidden snares that are involved with the book¿s doptive families as they go about adopting their Korean daughters The story takes place in Baltimore, with two families from different cultures; a suburban Caucasian family and a Iranian family. These two families become the focus of the book since both have adopted a daughter from Korea. It¿s an interesting story and there lots of humorous discussions. Highly recommend.
grislib on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great book!
msbaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've always loved Anne Tyler's novels. Frankly, I consider her to be a modern American literary treasure. I love the predictability of Tyler's novels¿there is usually a Baltimore setting, a focus on small family drama, a woman who suddenly find herself a stranger in her own life, and a host of unforgettable spot-on-perfect characters that jump to life off the page and live alongside us while we observe them interacting with one another. Tyler's latest novel, Digging to America, is no exception; however, with this new work, Tyler adds a number of wonderful new ingredients. The new ingredients are cultural differences, cultural assimilation, and an endearing Iranian-American character who finds herself a stranger, not only in her own life, but in her adopted country as well. There is an intriguing additional ingredient for those readers who love to get inside the minds and lives of authors: this book has strong autobiographical overtones, and this is a real bonus for an author as reclusive as Tyler! More about that later.Digging to America is a novel about the slow amalgamation of two very different American families: the Donaldsons, a bright, cheery, everything-out-in-the-open, mildly quirky, but nonetheless typical, middle-class American family; and the Yazdans, an Iranian-American family who exhibit most of the archetypal cultural hang-ups of that particular ethnic subculture. On first appearance, these families seem to be polar opposites. They are drawn together by chance at the Baltimore airport, where each family comes to collect its newly adopted baby daughter from Korea. From the very first, all the differences between these two families appear in strong, stark, loving, humorous, and typically Tyleresque contrast. After this first meeting, it would have been natural in "real life" for both of these families to disappear from each other's lives. But, this is an Anne Tyler novel, and you can count on Bitsy Donaldson's quirky, meddlesome, everything-is-possible nature to get these two families together again and again, year after year at annual family rituals. There are the "Arrival Parties," where the families celebrate their daughter's first entrance into America. These parties are an all-American patchwork of 4th-of-July celebration and family hoedown. The centerpiece is a manic family sing-a-long of "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain." Then there are the autumn "Raking Parties," both girls' birthday parties, Thanksgiving celebrations, Christmas parties, and most original of all, the "Binky Farewell Party." This last affair was specially designed to help the Donaldson's second adopted daughter¿this time from China¿give up her embarrassingly long-lived reliance on binkies.These parties provide the novel with its structure. Each event works like a short story, and as such they are complete and enjoyable in their own right. But Tyler chooses to weave these events into a novel. She uses these parties as perfect observation points for readers to watch these two families interact, grow, and change over time. We watch them for a decade. Between the parties, there are major life-altering events that occur in the lives of individual Donaldson and Yazdan family members. But these big life events are not the focus¿the focus always remains on the small everyday dramas and the slow changes that move these families¿little by little¿together, until they are seamlessly one.If there is a main character in this novel, it is Maryam Yazdan. It is her life that Tyler focuses on with great love, insight, humor, and understanding. Maryam first comes to America four decades before the opening of this story. She comes as a teenage bride willingly accepting a quasi-arranged marriage with a slightly older man who has already made America his home. For 40 years, Maryam has been a woman caught between two cultures¿never feeling at home in either. She feels perpetually "the outsider," with no concept about how to live as one wh
shelleyraec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked the premise of this book - it was an interesting look at a microcosm of a multicultural society and identity, and how we all as Dave puts it "feel like we dont quite belong."I think the differences in the two families was handled well and the characters (with the exception of the husbands) were well drawn. The shift during the story from the focus on the girls and their mothers to begin with to the relationship between Dave and Maryam and Maryam in particular seemed a little odd and I felt a bit like the girls story and perhaps Ziba's didnt really finish as a result.I think there could have been two more effective separate books of the story.I found the first quarter of the book really intriguing but the middle third seemed quite repetitive - the story didnt really seem to move forward all that much, it picked up again during the last third.However I really did like the idea behind the book and think its a worthwhile read so I give it3 stars
ReginaR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars. I listedn to this book on audio and "read" it for book club. I honestly am not sure how to rate this book. I was often irritated at the cliched use of stereotypes and the way Ms. Tyler did not know her characters but she instead relied on stereotypes to draw and paint her characters personalities. However, by the end I cared emotionally about the characters, so I am rating it up 1 star than what I had intended to give the book. The portrayal of death, marriage relationships, and mourning was very touching. I thought Ms. Tyler's portrayal of parenting to be really tired and irritating. But despite this, there were several scenes that either moved me emotionally or made me laugh.My main issue with this story is that I really dislike using stereotypes to make fun of people or to convey a certain message. I felt that Ms. Tyler was doing this with several of her characters, Bitsy in particular, and it really felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. I have alot of other thoughts about this book, I may add them later or just save them for book club meeting.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A chance meeting at an airport arrival gate leads to a cross-cultural friendship between two adoptive families. One family is typically American, and the other is Iranian American. Both families have adopted Korean babies who arrive on the same flight. Each year the Donaldsons and Yazdans celebrate their daughters' adoptions with an elaborate Arrival Party. Each year's party is viewed from the perspective of a different family member.This was my first Anne Tyler novel. I didn't know what to expect when I started the book, and it was a pleasant discovery for me. I identified with most of the characters. Like the Yazdans, I've lived in a culture as an outsider. Like Maryam, I found it was easier to become friends with other cultural outsiders, even when we didn't share the same cultural background. Like the Donaldsons, I've helplessly watched the decline of a parent and grandparents caused by cancer. As a child, I was part of a welcoming party for an adopted cousin. I know several families who have adopted internationally and/or inter-racially. Reading this book reminded me of those relationships and experiences and how they have enriched my life.Although I liked this book very much, I'm not sure it's one I'll read again. I think a lot of its impact came from the gradual revelations of character as the book progressed, as well as a few surprises along the way. I don't think a re-reading would have the same effect since I would know what's coming. Even though I won't be re-reading this one, I will be adding more of Tyler's work to my TBR list.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first read this book about 3 years ago and liked it very much. On the reread for my book club by opinion has greatly decreased. Anne Tyler writes about the difficulty in adjustment - to each other, to family, to friends and to country. But by the end the reader is left wondering why a person works so hard to be an outsider. Tyler shows how hard it is for foreigners to adjust to America and that whether Americans welcome them, assist them, embrace their culture or try to encourage assimilation to the new culture they're doing the wrong thing. It seems in many instances this is true, but makes for a depressing and even, by the end, an annoying end.
pdebolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like most Anne Tyler books, this one has many levels. I think that there is a reason for the stereotypes she presents - most people do not leave their heritage when they immigrate. Perhaps total integration into America was not possible - nor desirable - for the Iranian family. I found it interesting that the American family retained the Korean name of their adopted baby (and insisted on her wearing tradition Korean garb), while the Iranian family changed their daughter's birth name to a very American name and dressed her as an American child. Surely this is worthy of contemplation. I think that Anne Tyler is saying many things in this book - it simply is not possible nor desirable for many to totally assimilate, nor is it healthy to retain every custom from their places of birth. This is not a book advocating for or against foreign adoption, but about the ways that people see themselves when they become Americans. I liked Dave the best. He seemed to endure the absurdity of many of his daughter's actions and to see byond the backgrounds to the people themselves.
dreamreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There was a time when the release of a new Anne Tyler or John Irving novel made my heart race with anticipation. However, her more recent works - Ladder of Years, Back When We Were Grownups, Amateur Marriage - fade in memory as an amorphous mass of sameness, while his have degenerated into aimless ramblings that try the patience of his staunchest fans. Sad to see one's favorites lose their touch. With an entirely new array of characters, Digging to America held so much potential, but sadly became just something to fill the reading void while waiting for a much more promising work by a new favorite, Julia Glass. We are given a modicum of back-story for Sami & Ziba, and for Bitsy & Brad. Maryam is the central character, and yet she, too, despite Tyler's effort at character development, remains largely an enigma. The complexity of her budding romance with Dave is skimmed oh-so lightly, while a drawn-out farewell to a baby's binkies is detailed ad nauseam. And the ending just feels pasted on like a Lifetime movie approaching its time limit. Perhaps Ms. Tyler, like Mr. Irving, has simply exhausted her reservoir of talent. In the hands of a more energetic writer, Digging to America could have struck gold.
mzonderm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title of this book comes from this question: if children in the U.S. dig a hole to China, are children in China digging to America? This seems to be a metaphor for the question of whether perhaps we're all, even the most American-seeming American, digging to America, or trying to figure out what it means to be American.When the Donaldson (American through-and-through) and the Yazdans (Iranian-American) adopt baby girls from Korea on the same day, the families become the best of friends. It is no surprise, perhaps, that the Donaldsons opt to keep their baby's Korean name and put lots of emphasis on her Korean heritage, whereas the Yazdans Americanize their daughter's name, and generally raise her as an American.Unpredictably, it seems that the Donaldsons look as much to the Yazdans for clues about raising their daughter as the other way around. Which is what this book is really about, I think. It's not about being American. it's about creating a family.
jules72653 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't love this book. It grew tiresome and I was glad when it was over.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A touching story of two dis-similar families drawn together by their adoption of Korean infants.
brsquilt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Iraian/American families adopt Korean girls
jepeters333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two families adopt baby girls from Korea. They meet at the airport and end up becoming friends.