An ironic thing happened while I was proofreading Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald (New American Library, February 2011). I decided to watch Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, which had been collecting dust in its Netflix mailer for weeks, possibly months.
Fitzgerald earned acclaim for Veil of Roses, a contemporary novel about Tamila Soroush, a beautiful young Iranian who leaves Tehran in search of a better life and for happiness--just as Fitzgerald's own husband had done. Dreaming in English is the sequel to Veil, and it follows Tami, who is visiting Tucson, Arizona, on a tourist visa. The book follows her through a series of comical engagements, an eleventh-hour marriage that enables her to stay in America, and the expected trials and tribulations of dealing with surprised in-laws, her husband's returning ex-girlfriend, and the struggles inherent to opening a business.
Clearly Fitzgerald wrote the book from a good place. She is a talented writer with great pacing and a refreshingly different character as America returns its attention to Iran and its attention-getting leadership. For many people, this would be a wonderful read. But I found this work just a little too sweet, and as I read along--particularly at the climax during Tami's immigration hearing--I swear I could hear Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" playing in the background.
Yes, America is still the best place on earth (in my opinion), but the awful truth is that there are serious problems in America, and I was longing for Tami to have deeper experiences, not just run-ins with a bewitched mother-in-law, mentally deficient suitors, a sister's pregnancy scare, and cold-hearted immigration employees.
Bowling for Columbine, as most of America already knows, is a documentary-style movie about some not-so-pretty aspects of American life. It specifically tackles gun ownership and the tragic things that can happen when young people have access to them. But it also is a comment on the state of journalism in America.
If you're happy with a read that skims the surface, waves the flag, and is a honey dripper, this book could be a very pleasing way to pass the time. But if you're looking for characters that have a broader range of experience--if you prefer books that make you laugh and cry and really think about what it is to have an authentic experience in America, warts and all--then this particular novel may not be for you.