Digging to America

by Anne Tyler

Hardcover, 2006

Call number




Knopf (2006), Edition: First Edition, 288 pages


Two families awaiting the arrival of their adopted infant daughters from Korea meet at the airport. The families lives become interwined after the Donaldsons, a young American couple invite the Yazdan's, Maryam, her son and his Iranian American wife to an arrival party, which becomes an annual event. Maryam, who came to this country thirty-five years earlier, feels her values threatened when she is courted by a newly widowed Donaldson. A penetrating light on the American way as seen from two perspectives, those who are born here and those who are still struggling to fit in.

Media reviews

in "Digging to America," Tyler's characters face the future, not the past, so she doesn't let the freight of personal history freeze their forward motion, although it sometimes slows them down.
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All these parties provide Tyler with the set pieces at which she so excels - although after the third or fourth farcical arrival ceremonies, the reader begins to tire of them as much as some of the family members. This also contributes to the sense in some of Tyler's more recent fiction that the parts, deliciously funny and sharply observed, are more satisfying than the whole.
There is so much truth here, as Tyler strips away the issue of ethnic difference to reach the heart of her complex and compelling matter.
Point of view is passed on from chapter to chapter in a subtle dance. This is beautifully done, but the effect of multiple viewpoints is to muffle the distinctiveness of the first.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cbl_tn
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.
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LibraryThing member phoebesmum
A story of two quite different couples who happen both to adopt Korean orphans at the same time; it's about family, and friendship, and food, and love, and loss, and cultural identity, and, for that matter, it's about pride and about prejudice – but mostly it's about people, and it's beautiful.
LibraryThing member dreamreader
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member KarentheLibrarian
I am not a big fan of Anne Tyler, but as an adoptive parent, I really enjoyed this book.
LibraryThing member WittyreaderLI
If you like characters who are lifelike as well as a story that will draw you in, check out this book.
LibraryThing member booksbooks11
So, if you are longing for that feeling of being totally engrossed in a book go out and get this one. Anne Tyler is such a wonderful writer, her characters are just so real I was really living in this story. It's her 17th novel so I'm going to have to add a few more of hers to my list, so make that 1018 to go.
The themes are around cultural differences, emmigration, assimiliation and also family and personal relationships - so are there any others left? I loved the portrayal of the infatuation of a couple, particlarly the wife with another family; but mainly the grandmother and narrator is such a warm and realistic character.
I'd like to know more about Anne Tyler, did she come from another cultural background, because her insights into assimilliation just seem so poignant.
So now I've started on Kafka by the Shore, so then I can finally start crossing off the 1001 list; it by the way has really grabbed me. Isn't reading just a million times better than TV, how many shows can you say you really enjoy, most of it is a bunch of mind numbing rubbish. Books on the other hand, are a whole different story.
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LibraryThing member seasidereader
It's been about a decade since I read an Anne Tyler, and I think that perhaps with her work more than some others', where one is with life experience and attitudes influences how well it is received.
Digging to America had me laughing out loud listening to the marvelous narrator (Recorded Books, available as a rental) render Bitsy's relentless optimism, and in Tyler's hands, the detailed descriptions of everyday life, imparted with massive doses of dialog, manage to escape becoming tedious.… (more)
LibraryThing member TPLThing
Anne Tyler’s latest novel on two topics immigration & adoption is really very interesting. It begins with two families meeting at Baltimore airport, both awaiting the arrival of their adopted daughters from Korea. The story follows the two families, one an American family & the other an Iranian American family. Tyler’s subtle observations about the immigrants & the way they try to assimilate themselves to the American life is perfect.The characters seem so real & believable. The story seems to slow down with the day to day descriptions, but keeps up to an interesting ending.… (more)
LibraryThing member mhgatti
Digging To America (like 2004's The Amateur Marriage), is noticeably different from her earlier work. This change in tone (to a much more serious one) and scope (still centered on families, but taking on society's larger issues) may reflect a post nine-eleven worldview or perhaps is just a natural maturation of Tyler's writing style. Whatever the reason, the change allows readers to better appreciate Tyler despite (or more likely, due to) not knowing what to expect style-wise.

Unlike Tyler's usual exploration of her character's role in their family, Digging uses the adoption of two Asian babies by two dissimilar families to explore one's place in their family and their country (both their native and adopted). The two families become friends but raise their children quite differently, all the while keeping an eye on how their child's development compares to the other's. Tyler also spends quite a bit of time on the grandparents to show how a parent's upbringing affects their own childraising methods.

Even though issues are taken more seriously and more directly here than in past Tyler books, it's just as well written as her previous novels. You might think more and laugh less, but Tyler's writing is just as strong and enjoyable in Digging as it is in the best of her earlier works.
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LibraryThing member harveywals
In my experience, Anne Tyler is ALWAYS worth reading, and this novel is no exception. AT has a way of communicating the vulnerabilities of her characters that makes us care deeply about them. She's funny and refreshing in her outlook on the human condition. This story of two families - one white, one Iranian, who develop a friendship after adopting baby girls from Korea on the same day, is poignant and satisfying.… (more)
LibraryThing member mbergman
Tyler never disappoints, though this one's a little different than her usual. She usually introduces quirky characters that I know I wouldn't like in real life & makes me care about what happens to them. This book begins with two families--one mainstream suburban extended family; one couple & the man's mother, all Iranian immigrants--waiting at the Baltimore airport for the arrival of two Korena infants for adoption. We follow these families as they struggle to raise these girls & to develop an uneasy friendship through shared ritual occasions between the two extended families. Gradually, the story's focus shifts somewhat to the Iranian grandmother, who struggles with her "outsider" status in America, and her relationship with the widowed grandfather from the other family. Tyler is perhaps the most reliable writer I read regularly, & this book is no exception even though she's stretching herself.… (more)
LibraryThing member Daisydaisydaisy
An enjoyable read. I liked the insights into immigrant life and cultural differences.
LibraryThing member banksh99
A good read, easy reading, nothing deep. I always enjoy Anne Tyler. I enjoyed the insights into Iranian-Americans.
LibraryThing member LadyN
Two culturally differing couples adopt babies from Korea, and forge a friendship based only on this common ground.

I very much enjoyed this book, although it didn't quite take me in the direction I expected to go. Despite the very different attitudes to raising their adopted children, I felt that the two families still inhabited a very insular world, with little or no influence any source other than their own families.

That said, I don't think the characters could have developed in the way they did had it not been for that seeming isolation from external influence forcing them to forge relationships only with each other.

Tyler has created some beautifully drawn characters - the older generation particularly, and I would recommend Digging to America as a quick, fun read.
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LibraryThing member mvanderlin
I've never been a huge fan of Tyler but this book was fine. I can't see raving over it because it never really grabbed me to the point of "I can't wait to pick up my book." I think I'm learning that just slice of life books don't do it for me. However, if you like and enjoy learning more about certain cultures in a very unintimidating way, this may be the book for you.… (more)
LibraryThing member DSlongwhite
Wonderful novel in typical Anne Tyler style. Two families meet at the airport as their adopted daughters are delivered from Korea. They become friends. The book follows their friendship for five years.
LibraryThing member alanna1122
I really enjoyed this book. Anne Tyler has a way of weaving a compelling quiet story like no other author. I found the plot to be fresh and new and I cared about all of the characters - it was a great read.
LibraryThing member goldiebear
I had a hard time relating to certain topics in the book, but others just seem to hit home. I have never been a big "baby" person personally. So for me, I get bored when that seems to be the topic at the time. But on the other hand, working with immigrant and refugees, I love the story line of the Iranians, especially the mother.

I did however enjoy the character development. Tyler does an excellent job at letting the reader get a glimpse into each characters world. It adds a lot of depth to the book.
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LibraryThing member franoscar
New (2007) book about adopting babies from Korea. Apparently, from the reviews, the adoption stuff is very badly distorted. Plus the characters are made of cardboard, they aren't people but just collections of characteristics.
LibraryThing member libmhleigh
In 1997, two infant girls were adopted from Korea by American families. One family, the Donaldsons, are determined to raise their daughter Jin-Ho with as much of her native culture as possible, while the others, the second-generation Iranian-American Yazdans, attempt to make their new daughter, and themselves, as American-seeming as possible. There night the girls arrive on the same plane bonds the two families together, as they celebrate a commemorative “arrival party” every year. Although they do not always understand one another, they do become aware that they each have a lot to learn from the other.

Quote: “The child asleep in Polly’s lab bore almost no connection to the baby on the screen. The sudden ache she felt was very like grief, as if that first Jin-Ho had suddenly passed out of existence.”

I thought this book was excellent- definitely one that I could come back to. Experiencing the same process and life events with two different- very different- families was interesting, particularly because they are continually drawn to each other. The book follows individuals from four distinct cultures: the U.S., Iran, Korea, and, eventually, China, and considers their “Americanness” and their “otherness” together- how they have a huge number of differences, but are ultimately the same.
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LibraryThing member sharlene_w
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member autumnesf
An interesting book about two families that adopt from Korea (and later one from China) that become friends. One of the families is your average middle class American and the other family is made up of immigrant Iranians. The thing that brings the families together is meeting at the airport when the Korean adoptee's are delivered to their new families, and one family makes it a point to start a relationship and celebrate "Arrival Day" for the girls. As adoptive parents, you will recognize the familiar clashes in child raising practices between the two families (working vs. non-working mothers, etc.) and seeing how the girls assimilate into their new families. Also, you get a look at how the Iranian immigrants adapt to life in America and how some always feel very much like an "other" instead of fitting in. That aspect is interesting as the adoptee's will also deal with this in some form as they grow up. I wonder if the Iranian parents will be more in-tune to those feelings when the children are older?… (more)
LibraryThing member thinkpinkDana
I was very interested in reading this book for several reasons. First, because I really love Anne Tyler and secondly, because we are close friends with multiple couples persuing overseas adoptions, of both infants and older children. I found in this story that Anne went deeper than the adopted children trying to make a home in America, in fact, their story was almost a side note. What Anne wrote about more was how people who are already Americans, whether by immigration or by birth, make themselves at home in this strange and sometimes frightening country we call home. What is family and culture and how do we respect them, how do we keep them, in this place where all are welcome but no one is quite sure how to fit in. Do we hang on to what makes us somfortable even when there may be nothing there to warm us? Or do we step out into a new world where those we love may not talk like us or look like us but take up residence in our lives just the same?

I have read several people who have not enjoyed this novel very much, but I loved it. In a world that is becoming more, rather than less, segregated by culture which may or may not include nationality, how do we reach out? And whom do we let in? And most importantly, what are we afraid of losing when we do?
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LibraryThing member carmarie
I really enjoyed this book. If you can believe, this was my first Anne Tyler book that I read, even though I have many of her titles, yet never got to them. This one grabbed me from the start! I loved the way she really dug deep and you saw each character clearly, without judgement. I will now READ all those other Ane Tyler books that are collecting dust on my shelf!!… (more)
LibraryThing member tronella
This is another one from the Orange Prize box. It's about two American families who both adopt Korean girls, and meet because the babies arrive at the same airport on the same day. One is some kind of middle-class white American family, who keep the girl's Korean name and dress her up in traditional Korean clothing on her birthday and so on, and the other is a second-generation Iranian family who rename their baby Susan and teach her Farsi. I thought it was pretty interesting, although a little cringy in places, especially reading about Bitsy being all "look how non-racist I am! I totally have Iranian friends! And my Korean daughter is friends with an African-American kid! :D?" I enjoyed this one - easy to read, and the characters seemed very true-to-life.… (more)




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