I recall in 1979 the first time I had heard of the country called Iran. From that first day I heard the words spoken, it would be many consecutive days that I would hear phrases that shaped my small understanding – The Hostage Crisis, The Shah of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini. There were images that crossed the television screen – Young male college age students, blind folded Americans, large crowds gathered around the American Embassy. This was the Iran I knew of. This was my view of the country. I was young, Middle School aged, so my interaction was left to that of a typical pre-teen.
So, when I first views this novel, “Song of a Captive Bird“, and I read about its author, Jasmin Darzink, I recalled the well received memoir she had written, “The Good Daughter: A Memoir of my Mothers Hidden Life”. I also learned from here essay’s that she was one of many, as a young girl, that fled Iran just before the Revolution. She told of her families journey, her recall as a immigrant and her memory of her parents melancholy regarding a want for an eventual return to Iran. She became in wonder of the few things her mother was able to bring with her, one was a slim book of poems by Farugh Farrokhzad. These poems, that book she first looked at as a young girl, would lead to eventual writing this novel.
This story of the trail blazing poet, Farugh, a defining influence of her generation, was not a subject I would readily search out. I am not much of a for poetry. However, the title and the cover of the book spoke to me. Then, as I was reading, within the beginning of a few chapters were pieces of poems that grabbed my attention. These poems were different, they were focused and expressive. They were approachable. They were not pretentious. These little pieces had me stop and look for more of Farugh’s poetry:
I’ll greet the sun again.
I’ll greet the stream that flowed within me,
The clouds that were my tallest thoughts,
the aspens in the garden
that endured seasons of drought with me,
the flock of crows
that brought me the scent of the fields at night,
my mother who lived in the mirror and
reflected the face of my old age,
The burning womb
my lust has filled the green seeds.
I’ll greet them all again.
– from “I Will Greet the Sun Again”
This world author Jasmin Darzinka has colored in for me is now much more vivid and real. This wonderful Historical Fiction, set in the 1940’s through 1968, held me fixed on every word. Every heart stopping action that occurred. Farugh’s life, hard with sharp jagged edges, dark as a moonless night and as colorful as the novel’s cover expresses a woman who would become a voice of a country. She gave voice to women for the first time, feelings they felt, but never before manifested in word or print. Farugh enters the world bound by physical walls. Walls build to keep her restrained within the customs of her country. She, as a woman is expected to be silent and submissive. Hidden. She is born to a Father, a high-ranking colonel in the Shaw’s Army, who rules his family absolutely. By a mother who had known no other life than that of the submissive wife and mother. in the background is the ever present social and political unrest of the country. Farugh rails against theses expectations placed on her, and suffers for it. After only attaining education to the age of thirteen or Fourteen, she will become a sensation at the age of nineteen with the publication of her first poem, “Sin”.
With the publication of “Sin” she becomes, at once, both famous and infamous. Labeled. Yet, she would not be silenced. She would live a life not before witnessed in Tehran or the whole of Iran. She would create. Five books of poetry, documentaries. She would carve out a place for herself in the larger world. As with so many young and talented artist’s she will leave this earth too soon. Before she does she leaves us a legacy of works that we all will be able to enjoy and appreciate for the ages.
I love when I fall backwards into a great book. The kind that opens your eyes to a new world view. One you had no foundation in and out of it you come away with a new appreciation of that world or of the people in it. Jasmin Darzink delivered just that type of experience with her new novel “Song of a Captive Bird.” I thank her for this. And I thank her for sharing Farugh Farrokhzad with me.
Available now for Pre-order or on Storeshelves – February 13th 2018
- I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, NetGalley and Jasmin Darzink for the opportunity to read this advance copy in exchange for my honest review.