Song of a Captive Bird
by Darznik, Jasmin

A first novel by the best-selling author of The Good Daughter reimagines the life of rebel poet Forugh Farrokzhad, who is depicted as a passionate young writer in search of freedom and independence from the restrictions imposed on women in mid-20th-century Iran.

Jasmin Darznik was born in Tehran, Iran, and moved to America when she was five years old. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. Her work has been published in thirteen countries and recognized by the Steinbeck Fellows Program, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the William Saroyan International Prize. Her stories and essays have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in fiction from Bennington College and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. Now a professor of literature and creative writing at California College of the Arts, she lives in Northern California with her family.

*Starred Review* In her memoir, The Good Daughter (2011), Darznik reveals her mother's long-hidden life in Iran, where she was married at 13, then forced to give up her firstborn to escape her brutally abusive husband. In Darznik's biographical first novel, her protagonist, based on the feminist Iranian poet and filmmaker Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-67), also loses her child in a battle for freedom. Young Forugh is a mischievous booklover and a budding poet often in trouble with her strict, unhappy mother and menacing father, a prominent colonel. Taken out of school after ninth grade and longing for a literary life, she becomes infatuated with an older cousin, a published writer. Scandal is narrowly averted by a hasty departure from Tehran and a quickly executed wedding. But Forugh will not be silenced by her smothering marriage; isolation in a dusty, gossipy town; or even love for her son. In dangerously candid poems, she asserts that "a woman is a human being . . . that we, too, have a right to breathe, to cry out, and to sing." Eventually she slips back to Tehran, enters into a risky affair with an editor, and attains notoriety that costs her her son and, for a time, her sanity and independence. Darznik's knowledgeably invented characters and compellingly imagined scenarios, both of which are sensuous and harrowing, are deftly set within Iran's violent, oil-fueled, mid-twentieth-century political and social upheavals, and stay true to the essence of Farrokhzad's audacious, dramatic, and creative life and courageous commitment to writing revolutionary poems about being female in a tyrannically sexist society. Darznik even includes her own stunning translations of Farrokhzad's incandescent poetry. Farrokzhad is known as the Sylvia Plath of Iran, and the two poets were contemporaries, living lives at once starkly different and remarkably attuned, then dying young and tragically. Plath's renown is universal; Darznik's enthralling and illuminating novel will introduce Farrokhzad to a whole new world of readers. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Unclean, unholy, immodest, disruptive—Forugh Farrokhzad endures the scorn of her family and society to become one of Iran's most prominent poets and a film director in this debut novel based on her real life.From the rise of the repressive Pahlavi dynasty to the 1953 coup bringing Mosaddegh to power, martial law in 1979 , and the beginnings of revolution, Darznik (The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life, 2011) weaves remnants of Forugh's real poetry through this bewitching tale of a woman transcending the strictures of a patriarchal society. There is no shortage of villains, including her domineering and abusive father, who insisted that even his children call him The Colonel. The novel opens with a troubling scene, as Forugh's mother ushers her to the shabby outskirts of Tehran to determine whether she is still a virgin. The virginity test comes like a rape to Forugh, leaving her shaken and setting the stage for disaster. Constantly seeking a way to play on the same field as men, Forugh discovers poetry, and her first poem commands even The Colonel's attention. Once her passion begins to show, however, his support abruptly ends, and her parents arrange a marriage to Parviz, who turns cold on their wedding night, rejecting her after seeing no blood on their sheets. A year later, stifled by her mother-in-law and disappointed in her husband, Forugh sneaks off to Tehran to find a publisher for her poetry, Nasser Khodayar, who becomes her lover as well. Recklessly publishing her first poem, "Sin," under her own name, Forugh sets in motion a cascade of events that will lead her to become an independent artist. But the path is long and twists through a mental asylum and divorce as well as the highs of love and showing her first documentary and the lows of social humiliations and prison. A thrilling and provocative portrait of a powerful woman set against a sweeping panorama of Iranian history. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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