The beautiful cover of this powerful debut caught my eye and after perusing the summary on the book jacket I was compelled to read and recommend this to one of my book groups. We wanted to focus on strong women and Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik fits the bill!
This story, based on the life of Forugh Farrokhzad, focuses on a young Iranian girl who as a child pushed the envelope when it came to respectable, traditional, female behavior. She had an interest in poetry, writing at eleven years old to get the attention of her strict father. She was lucky enough to find a friend she connected with who enjoyed the written word as well and she and this young boy secretly met and he exposed her to different writers, but the Iranian culture forbid them to socialize. Her parents locked her in small spaces as a punishment and due to her questionable behavior, they forced her to undergo a virginity test. At sixteen years old her father orchestrated an arranged marriage and the relationship suffered due to unsurmountable challenges. Forugh became a teenage mother, began a clandestine romantic relationship with a powerful man in the publishing business, ran away from her stifling marriage and toward freedom and self fulfillment.
Forugh’s passion was to write, and when her provocative, expressive poetry was published, scandalous and smart written words by a woman… it caused a huge uproar. Her marriage had been damaged beyond repair, her parental rights were impacted, her love affair was not all she had hoped it would be, but her quest for independence and creative freedom remained her priority as she changed the world of poetry in Iran and became an icon for feminism.
The title, Song of a Captive Bird, refers to Forugh; her poetry is her song and she endures feelings of being trapped by society and the rules preventing women to express themselves, as well as her marriage, relationship with her parents and her lovers, during the 1970s political resistance leading up to the revolution. But in some ways all the characters are like captive birds, trying to conform to societal rules in a suppressed society and being challenged by each other, yet also finding comfort in the confines of what is acceptable. Forugh gave up her marriage and family to find success as a poet, because in Iran she could not have it all.
I loved this book along with all the others in my book group. Forugh was a strong, feisty woman living in the 1970s in Iran who was determined to share her creativity with the world, despite the backlash and outrage her poetry stirred up. Although throughout her short life she she didn’t conform to rules for females, cooking and motherhood were not her strong suits, she endured some horrible psychological and physical tortures, suffered unbearable heartbreaks, and many aspects of her life seemed like colossal failures, Forugh persevered and set the bar high when it came to freedom of expression, independence and rights for women.
This book is historical fiction based on the incredible poetry and varied life experiences of controversial poet Forugh Farrokhzad whose life tragically ended at age 32. Author Jasmin Darznik draws you in from the very beginning and consistently shocks and amazes you with details of this extraordinary woman’s life, giving you incentive to do some googling! Fantastic debut novel!
About the Author:
Jasmin Darznik is the author of the debut novel Song of a Captive Bird, a fictional account of Iran’s trailblazing woman poet, Forugh Farrokhzad, as well as the New York Times bestseller The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. Her books have been published or are forthcoming in sixteen countries.
Jasmin received her MFA from Bennington College and PhD in English from Princeton. She is a professor of English and creative writing at California College of the Arts and is now at work on a novel set in 1920s San Francisco.