The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik
There are times, precious few I will admit dear reader, when I read a novel, choose a novel actively, to learn something. Oh, its true--I do learn something from even novel I read, but these is a difference between diffusion and intentional immersion. I picked up The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik with the single purpose of learning more about Iranian culture through the eyes of Darznik's women. I wanted to learn about a culture I didn't understand, and knew even less about. Little did I realize it was a memoir--the Nook could have informed me better on that; little did I know I would fall profoundly enraptured in the four generations of Iranian women connected by their determination and intelligence.
Jasmin is Lili's daughter, a daughter who quickly slips away from traditional Iranian values, quickly slips away from her mother's small world of isolation in America, and so Lili threatens her American daughter with tales of her good daughter back in Iran. It isn't until Jasmin's father dies that Jasmin realizes that the good daughter isn't just a threat, but a real daughter, and that she is not her mother's only child. We are then weaved three generations back to Lili's grandmother Pargol in Tehran and begin the journey of her mother's life. We come to see the resourcefulness and strength of character of both Pargol and her daughter Kobra. We come to see Lili herself bristle and pull at the veins of tradition and learn the breathtaking story of Lili's Iran.
The first chapters of The Good Daughter are all-consuming: written with an author's pen and full of a descendant's imagination, a backdrop of poverty and struggle veiled by Persian carpets and the backbone of a grandmother's will. Darznik writes without prejudice, without a tone of condescension or animosity and the novel--instead of teaching you--guides you lovingly through a world you are a stranger to. And while you are a stranger in Lili's Iran, the universal themes are the same: the strength of women, their rigidity in tradition until tradition no longer suffices, the power of education, and the desperation of circumstance.
It is not so much a story, as a explanation of a woman's life. As a result, we are left with more questions than answers, more confusion than focus, but the confusion forces you to question why. And when you try to answer, the explanation is so complex you return to the book once more.
I bought The Good Daughter to learn something I honestly didn't know. And I learned so much more than I ever imagined. For anyone seeking a thoughtful read, this is a book for you.