May 20, 2012

Review - The Good Daughter (Jasmin Darznik)

Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortly following her father's death, Jasmin was helping her mother move; a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. The girl pictured was her mother. She was wearing a wedding veil, and at her side stood a man whom Jasmin had never seen before.
At first, Jasmin's mother, Lili, refused to speak about the photograph, and Jasmin returned to her own home frustrated and confused. But a few months later, she received from her mother the first of ten cassette tapes that would bring to light the wrenching hidden story of her family's true origins in Iran: Lili's marriage at thirteen, her troubled history of abuse and neglect, and a daughter she was forced to abandon in order to escape that life. The final tape revealed that Jasmin's sister, Sara - The Good Daughter - was still living in Iran.
In this sweeping, poignant, and beautifully written memoir, Jasmin weaves the stories of three generations of Iranian women into a unique tale of one family's struggle for freedom and understanding. The result is an enchanting and unforgettable story of secrets, betrayal, and the unbreakable mother-daughter bond.

To Jasmin Darznik The Good Daughter always epitomized her Iranian mother's warning about herself becoming "too American". Only after her father's death Jasmin finds out that she has indeed a sister, the good daughter, back in Iran. Over the course of ten tapes her mother, Lili, tells her whole life story, sharing an intimate view into the lives of three generations of Iranian women.
Beautifully written, in a clear voice, this is both a touching and fascinating account of Iranian life in the mid-20th century. It's the distance between narrator and protagonist that skillfully blends the genre of the memoir with fiction. And while it is never easy to see how much of the person, who writes down the story of another one's life, seeps into the narration, I have to say that I perceived this book as very authentic with all its colorful descriptions which certainly broadened my understanding of culture in Iran. Not just Lili’s German husband, but also the reader will be surprised by the unexpected modernity contrasting the anticipated tradition.
One question that unfortunately stayed unanswered is how the author's mother perceived this candid memoir of her own person, especially considering how long she kept much of her past, and especially her oldest daughter, a secret. Apart from that I also would have liked to see a final chapter of the whole family actually meeting, but then again, maybe that's a story for another day.
In short: A wonderful memoir filled with strength and perseverance!

4/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Birgit:

    I really enjoyed reading your review of Jasmin Darznik The Good Daughter. Because I love reading stories of other cultures, I know I will enjoy this. Thanks for your review