Anne Tyler’s Digging to America

BOOK REVIEW Digging to America by Anne Tyler BOOK REVIEW Digging to America is a typical Anne Tyler’s novel which focuses on the family life and its daily drama. However, this time the author adopts a new approach to different perspectives providing the reader with a great chance to enjoy the amplitude of the novel’s complex characters.
The novel begins at the Baltimore airport on Friday, August 15, 1997 where two families arrive to meet their newly adopted Korean orphan baby girls. Two couples previously unknown to each other strike up a lasting, frequently bizarre friendship. The first couple is Brad and Bitsy Donaldson, a typical American family, the second – Sami and Ziba – Yazdan Iranian fully assimilated immigrants. Although the novel’s perspective shifts among its many characters, Sami’s mother Maryam is at its narrative and emotional heart, who carefully tries to preserve her ‘outsiderness” and despite having emigrated from Iran almost 40 years earlier, is frequently perplexed by her son and daughter-in-law’s ongoing relationship with the loud, opinionated, unapologetically American Donaldson.
Anne Tyler uses the story of the families’ growing friendship to explore what it means to be American . Two families keep in touch and meet every year to celebrate the day when they adopted two little girls from Korea. The Donaldsons and Yazdans have very different approaches to non-biological parenthood – Brad and Bitsy, "whose cultural sensitivity verges on aggression" (Schillinger, 2006), insist on calling their daughter Jin-ho, a Korean birth name, and dress her in Korean clothes while trying to retain the ethnic heritages of her daughter. Ziba and Sami Yazdan, in contrast, do their best to Americanize their daughter – the original name Sooki is replaced by more American Susan, which is also "a comfortable sound for Iranians to pronounce" (Matthews, 2006) and the way of life does not seem to be Korean for a girl.
Despite the opposite brining up approaches the families maintain their relationship, and the reason is not their children but "because they sense that the volatile process of cultural accommodation is part of what it means to be American" (Matthews, 2006).
Maryam, Sami’s widowed mother, grew up in Tehran and then experienced the heavy burden of Americanization when she immigrated to the country escaping from the political pressure of shah. In Baltimore she became a wife of well-educated and progressive Iranian expatriate. it was an arranged marriage but also a love match. Her husband died a couple of years later and she did not take her chance for second marriage. It’s obvious that when Bitsy’s mother dies she finds herself courted by recently widowed Dave Donaldson.
Maryam stays true to herself. she is not ready to betray her values, traditions, origins and privacy that she cherishes. Dave seems to be too American for her thus the differences in culture arouse. Anyway their relations come to a natural outcome when Dave proposes a marriage and Maryam even agrees but after one day of reflections she makes a refusal, thus causing a breach between the families. The novel comes to unexpected end that is hanging out in the air.
Tyler’s amazing ability to provide the reader with an insight in the characters’ underlying motives and thoughts, coupled with brilliant depiction of details makes the book one of the best examples of modern American family literature.
REFERENCES
Matthews, Ch. A cultural Tug of War. Houston Chronicle, April 28, 2006 [available online at http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/books/reviews/3825428.html]
Schillinger, L. Accidental Friendship. The New York Times 21 May 2006 [available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/21/books/review/21schillinger.html)

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