Digging to America

ISBN: 0307263940
ISBN 13: 9780307263940
By: Anne Tyler

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Genres

Adoption Anne Tyler Book Club Bookclub Contemporary Contemporary Fiction Favorites Fiction General Fiction To Read

Reader's Thoughts

Erin

I'M DOING THAT WEIRD THING AGAIN.It occurs more regularly at those points in life when your bookshelf is particularly bare. I should certainly know, because right now half my books are trying to flatten out a bunch of AMAZING (and yet equally horrible) 90's movie posters I found at a garage sale last month. I'm thinking about wallpapering our living room with the likes of "Heat", "Weird Creatures", "Dante's Peak", and, of course, my favorite, "Jingle All the Way" (never actually saw it, mind you, but the face Arnold Schwarzenegger is making on the front should be the one he makes in every campaign photo. california would be 20x cooler)Anyway, you're really tired because you just came home from shooting a mexican infommercial for 14 hours and you need something to read to unwind while you cook your creamy-chicken-flavored-ramen-noodles. but, mysteriously, there's nothing to read around. so you go hunting for the "sex drugs and cocoa puffs" book you threw behind the couch when you got annoyed at chuck last month, but all you can find, all you can EVER seem to find lately, is "Digging to America", which you have already read and don't really care to restart. but you pick up anyway. because you are DOING THAT THING AGAIN. doing that thing, you know, where you just pick up the book, choose a page, and start reading, only because it's the most convenient thing around, for days and days, until you notice you're starting to piece together the book again the way you first read it. and, whoa, you liked it the first time, because all of anne tyler's books are the kind of mellow slow build that draw you into the characters, not the story, but this time, jumping from place to place, reading chapters at a time, you start to notice things about people you hadn't before, which is why you love these books, because it's just like living with the people you're reading about. which, of course, can be annoying. i find "annoyance" the most common reaction to anne tyler's books. you have to be patient with her characters the same way you're patient with an actual person. they're real. in all their traits and mannerisms and quirks and pitfalls, you have to look really hard to find what tyler may or may not be trying to tell you, (i imagine her to be much like her often absentminded characters, often forgetting what book she's even writing, and not that motivated in the first part to tell you anything in particular, anyway) through the memories and little moments she imparts sporadically throughout the telling. so i'm doing that thing again, but it's turned out kind of nice. just, you know, like spending time with the extended fam.if only doing "that thing" again with "sex, drugs, and cocoa puffs" had worked out quite so nice. chuck might still be around.

Susan Wood

Currently reading for a local book club. I would not have chosen this book myself based on the first several pages. It's an easy read, with too many mundane details. I find myself skimming over a lot of the text and that is not what I find an enjoyable. Nonetheless, some of the characters are interesting... we'll see where it goes.Update: I only made it half way through and won't finish it. The book club gave this story a unanimous thumbs down due to sketchy, somewhat schizophrenic, character development, and an unlikely story line. Nothing much here to make you turn the page.

Melanie

A story about two couples, one quintessentially American and the other Iranian-American, who meet by chance at the Baltimore airport as they are both meeting their adopted Korean baby girls. They spark an unlikely friendship and this book explores the relationship between the two families and their vastly different ideas on child-rearing and life. Great character-development and Anne Tyler really captures the intricacies and emotions between relationships within families and friendships. I loved how Maryam (the mother-in-law) and Zida (her daughter-in-law)sort of dance around each other and miscommunicate in their attempts to be flexible and polite. There was so much I could relate to in this book like how you can be friends with someone who really gets on your nerves on the one hand, but is such a kind, well-meaning person on the other hand! This book does a great job of balancing our differences and commonalities with important people in our lives. A really enjoyable read!

Mata

a book about two families who each adopt baby girls from Korea. She weaves all these characters together that are associated with the girls, it's facsinating to see how each character develops after the arrival of the girls, and how the girls fill voids in everyone's life. Highly recommend this book.

Natalie

I really enjoyed this book! I found myself telling people about it over the week or so that I read it. I found it really fascinating -- this look at Americans and "foreigners" -- seen through this tale of two very different families who are brought together by the adoption of Korean baby girls. I loved how different the two families were -- heritage, parenting approaches, personality, etc. I could appreciate the two new mothers and their varied feelings. I could relate to both Bitsy and Ziba, as different as they were from each other. Though, I'm not sure I would have appreciated that aspect of the book if I wasn't yet a mother. I loved how the author really developed the various characters -- the parents and grandparents of the little girls. It was through the character development that the story of the girls was told. I was suprised by all of this -- I'd had the misconception that it was going to be about the girls and their experiences as they grew. But, that was really just a back-drop for the "real" story with Maryam and her inner struggle with her self-proclaimed "outsiderness." My only complaint about the book was the ending. I was a little disappointed -- I wasn't quite ready for it to end where it did. I closed the book feeling like I'd been cut off -- I wanted more. But, as I reflect a bit more, I think it was a very nice way to end the book. I think this would be a great book for a book club -- lots of things to discuss.

Judy

I'm always amazed how Ann Tyler can write such riveting stories where not all that much happens. It's all about the characters and "Digging To America" is no exception. It follows the intertwined lives of two couples who meet at the Baltimore Airport when picking up their adopted Korean daughters. Bitsy and Brad are white upper-class Americans, while Sami and Ziba are Iranian-Americans. Their friendship spans their daughters' childhood.What I really enjoyed about this book is the insight about infertility and adoption, which has been called everyone's second choice. We see how hard the couples tried to conceive and how adoption turned out to be different than they expected. (Ziba weeps uncontrolably one night as her daughter sleeps, wondering "Where is my own baby?")

Lauren

Tyler creates an interesting story centering around two families who adopt children from Korea in the autumn of 1997. They meet at the airport on the "arrival day" and subsequently plan to meet on the day in the future to commemorate the children's arrival in America. The most interesting aspects of the book surround Maryam, the grandmother of one of the girls, an Iranian widow who struggles to find her place in America; and that of Dave, the American widower, who is the grandfather of the other adopted child.The majority of the book was a fulfilling story, with many perspectives on what it is like to embrace your "adopted" country, like the Korean girls, and Maryam do throughout the book. Towards the end, Tyler abruptly shifts narrators to one of the young girls, and the tone and style are suddenly jarring and silly, specifically in regards to the "binky fairy" that other reviewers have mentioned here. It is laughable, and sticks out like "a sore thumb" from the well thought-out interpersonal relations and inner thoughts that make up the rest of the novel.Overall, an engaging story with interesting views on modern culture and traditions in the United States.

Gerald

I've read all of Anne Tyler's books, many of them more than once. What never ceases to amaze me is how much emotion there is between the lines. The proposal scene will break your heart. I confess after studying it that I still don't quite understand how its emotional impact is achieved. Understated, certainly. Unexpected, yes. Organic because nothing else could have happened here.Ms. Tyler loves every one of her characters dearly. There are no ugly souls in her books, just ordinary people who make mistakes.

Hoosier

Two babies from Korea brought together two families--one from the United States and the other from Iran. In Digging to America, Anne Tyler tells the story of how two very different families became close friends to the point of becoming dependent on each other. It is interesting to follow the families adjusting to being parents/grandparents to adopted children, watch how the Iranian family brings their customs to American society, and see how much of the Korean girls' heritage should be retained. I also enjoyed reading about four sets of grandparents and each of their individual approach to being grandparents and welcoming an adopted child into their family. Tyler tells the book from the viewpoints of the main characters, which allows for an interesting insight into the families' dynamics. While I skipped some of the pages towards the end of the book because the story became a bit predictable and repetitive, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. In fact, this book is perfect for book clubs because there are endless issues to discuss.

Caroline

First of all, I'm a HUGE Anne Tyler fan. To my mind, she can do no wrong. Reading one of her books is like curling up on the couch in a baggy cashmere sweater. That said, this is definitely not one of her strongest. She doesn't develop the characters in any particularly complex way and it's really hard to step into their shoes. Usually her portrayals of families are so hauntingly real, it's almost uncomfortable to read about them, but here it read like the "setting the scene" for a family drama on Lifetime. Held up next to Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, which deals with similar themes, Digging to America doesn't gain any traction at all.

Joanna

This is a study in what it means to be a family on one hand, and also what it means to be an individual in a family who is still the "other." Like all of Tyler's books this one is touching and sweet. There is something so comforting about the mundane and everyday in life that Tyler portrays, but also something very poignant about the situations described and the emotions surrounding them. Nothing earth shattering, but terribly real and relatable. Not only is the story of how differently these two mothers approach raising an adopted child a wonderful study in contrasts, but it is interesting to consider how the stories of these two girls will compare to the story of Maryam, an Iranian immigrant who has raised a family in the US, as they age. I felt a great deal of sympathy for Maryam's desire to maintain her Otherness and hold herself apart.

Anjali

I have to admit I had never heard of this book until I read about it on JoV’s blog. JoV hosted a giveaway on her blog and I was one of the lucky winners. I chose the popular Random Acts of Heroic Love, but she was generous enough to send me a copy of Digging to America along with my chosen book. If not for JoV, I would have never discovered this wonderful book.This book is about two Korean babies who are adopted by two different families based in America. While Jin-Ho is adopted by an American family, Susan is adopted by an Iranian family based in America. These two families come together on the night the babies arrive from Korea and are bonded by the one common thing – adoption of a Korean baby. The two families gradually discover the vast gap in their culture and opinions. They meet at every occasion and religiously celebrate the “Arrival Day” – the day the babies arrived home.Anne Tyler’s Digging to America has an intriguing title. I wondered why it was named this way and didn’t find out the reason until almost half way into the book. Jin-Ho is digging a hole in the backyard one day and wonders just like how she is digging a hole to China, is there a girl in China who is digging a hole to America. And that’s the trigger for the title – and also that all the characters in the book are trying to find a place for themselves in the land of opportunities.We see several characters – the girls themselves, their parents, maternal and paternal grandparents, relatives and so on. The best part of the book is the characterization. I am guessing Tyler reads psychology in her spare time because she understands human mind so well. Each and every character in this book is so real and so beautifully created, that it reminds me of Somerset Maugham. I love his characterization and Tyler comes really close. Of all the intriguing characters, I find Maryam, Susan’s paternal grandmother, the most interesting.The adopted girls, Susan and Jin-Ho, could have been built better. The girls are shown to be different but never explored further. We just know Jin-Ho to be clumsy and pretty whereas Susan is plain yet graceful. It would be interesting to know what the girls felt about their adoption. There is a fleeting mention of the girls not caring for the Arrival Day Party and the video, but I was hoping to read more. I expected a bit more elaboration when Jin-Ho gets an adopted sister – wasn’t there sibling rivalry at all? Also, the incident where Sami and Brat have a fight – this part appears childish and it doesn’t affect the relationships of the character which I found hard to believe.I like the fact that the third person POV changes after every few chapters. The initial few are in Maryam’s POV and it shifts to Ziba, Sami, Bitsy and even Jin-Ho. It needs a bit of context switching and it takes a while to get used to.I need to work with American people on a daily basis and the cultural differences crop up all the time – sometimes totally unexpected. What we call politeness is seen as lack of confidence by the American team. When they try to be frank and open, we see it as rudeness. We constantly check our words hoping not to toe the line and hurt anybody. I could relate so well to the cultural clashes that the characters in this book experience. A very interesting and thought provoking book that one must read.

Cathleen

I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. It's quieter, more subtle writing, but the layers of character are rich -- more so than one expects from the early stereotypes. I actually groaned at the conclusion, wanting more of the story, and it has been a long while since I've had that feeling for a book I didn't freely choose for myself.audiobook note: perfect narration by Blair Brownfirst read 5/08 (audio)re-read 1/09

Bojan Gacic

Be it either an erroneous habit, or a method of intellectual self-protection, the truth is that all of us will draw comparison between the author's book, and the work which we have previously encountered. I'm no exception- comparing and contrasting remains a significant aspect of my reading experience. The key is to develop a standard balanced between high expectatios and a sense of criticism. Hey, everyone's a critic these days, especially when it comes to books and their merit of being time-consuming. My past experiences with Anne Tyler? ''The Accidental Tourist'', that profound and incomparable novel about people, life, and tragedy yet remains in clear memory after nearly three years. My second venture into her work came with ''Breathing Lessons''- most writers essentially with the Pulitzer for some other novel, rarely the one officially bestowed with the honor. By the end I had that semi-nauseous feeling one gets after watching a soap opera. Now, there is this- at times a profound insight into the state perpetual culture shock, the desire to be indistinctive, one of the whole, and the awareness you will always stand out- no matter how flawlessly Americanized you accent is. Two families meet at the Baltimore airport. The Yazdans, immigrants from Iran, and the Donaldsons of Baltimore. They share a particular bond, all are waiting for the same plane, the one carrying their newly-adopted Korean babies. Anne Tyler puts herself in a less than desirable position from the start. Both the families are having their babies ''delivered'' on the same day? Tyler, being the proficient line-and-lenght writer, spins the narrative, as well as your sense of credibility, into her trademark descriptions of day-to-day mechanisms of family life. Through the first hundred or so pages I was willing to disregard the plot irrationalities. Yes, the families begin socializing due to.....? Their mutual need for understanding? -I was able to content myself with the exceedingly-thin-given-the-vast-cultural-differancees elucidation.Maryam Yazdan may be the finest written female character I have read in years. Crafted with skill, and the sense for subtle nuances that mark a person's cultural and intellectual individuality, every thought that goes through her head, and every word she utters possess a sense of trustworthiness. She feels different, we feel for her feeling different, the disappointment of her son Sami disowning himself, their culture, and heritage. Other than Maryam and Sami every other character seems as a cardboard cutout- devoid of step-by-step analysis. You will not be given a chance to care for any of them, which is significant factor in a novel dealing with domestic life embroidered with international circumstances.What eventually made the entire involvement a matter to lament was the extent of cliches Tyler deploys, the narrative taking a woeful turn into a composite of quasi-profound, puke-your-guts remarks, subversively coalesced with post-9/11 propaganda. Really? Those are the reasons why I turn to books rather than TV.If ''Digging to America'' marks your first Anne Tyler novel the odds are in your, meaning her, favor. The rest of us must content ourselves that better book are to come. Could have been better. Should have been better.

Mara

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.

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