Monday, April 4, 2011

The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik

Title: The Good Daughter – A memoir of my mother’s hidden life

Author: Jasmin Darznik
Genre: Memoir
My Rating: 4 Stars

After her father’s death, Jasmin Darznik comes across an old photograph – it is a wedding day picture of her mom, Lili. But, with shock, Jasmin realizes that this picture is very different from the one that she’s seen hanging in the various houses she’s been in. For one, Lili is much younger and secondly, the man in the picture – not her dad!

Jasmin had not realized that her mom had a history that she was not aware of. And when she initially questioned her mom – all that she got in response was silence.

Later, however, Lili sent her a series of audio tapes in which she describes her childhood in Iran, her first wedding and her life before she immigrated to America. Darznik has transformed the story in those tapes in to a fabulous book – The Good Daughter.

Having an Iranian friend and listening to tidbits of her life in Iran before the Islamic Revolution made me thirsty to read more and gain more knowledge about Iran and its culture. I read a few Iranian-American memoirs like Funny in Farsi by Firozeh Dumas and Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni. But, “The Good Daughter” stands out amidst other Iranian-American memoirs. For one, it is much richer in the details of life in Iran before and during the revolution. And while the others that I have read focus on dealing with being Iranian in America, Jasmin’s book focuses entirely on her mother’s life and life in Iran and her struggles of fitting in after moving to America.

The Iranian customs, traditions and lifestyles are woven seamlessly in to the story and without really realizing it, you get a complete Iran 101! Lili’s history is so interesting that the book almost feels like a fiction novel. I had to stop and remind myself that this was a true life story and that Lili was an actual person!

One thing that I expected from this book even before I started reading it was good writing. Jasmin is a professor of English and Creative Writing at Washington and Lee University and I knew that her novel had to been well written. I was not disappointed. The Good Daughter is very well written and a joy to read!

The only issue that I had with the book was the title and it’s relation to the book. The title “The Good Daughter” refers to the daughter that Lili left behind in Iran; her daughter from her first marriage; the daughter she was forced to abandon. Being the title character, I expected to read a lot more about Sara and Jasmin’s relationship with her. But that was not the case. Sara was a part of the book, but only a small part and I didn’t think she was “title-worthy”. That’s just my opinion.

And of course, I would have loved to see pictures – at least the photo of Lili’s first wedding; the discovery of which made this book possible.

But apart from that, all other aspects of this book are so fantastic that it definitely makes a wonderful read. After the beginning of each chapter, Jasmin includes a line or two from Lili’s tapes. Those lines were my favorite part of the book. Reading those lines, in Lili’s own words, made her more real to me.

I would definitely recommend this book. I totally enjoyed reading this book and I am sure everyone else will as well!