Review: ‘Song of a Captive Bird’ is a Stunning Account of Famed Iranian Poet Forugh Farrokhzad’s Life

in Fiction by

Not quite historical fiction and not quite biography, there’s a genre that exists halfway in between and Jasmin Darznik’s Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel fits perfectly. While the book is fiction, it documents the real life and times of Forugh Farrokhzad, the Iranian poet.

Forugh led a fairly controversial life for her time – fiercely independent, she wrote from a strong feminist perspective; her poetry was considered to be so controversial that it remained banned for about ten years after the Iranian Revolution. Now, she is thought of as one of Iran’s most famous and influential poets and an early advocate for feminism, women’s rights and independence.

Jasmin Darznik’s novel tells the story of Forugh’s childhood and life in Tehran. Beautifully written and imaginative, Song of a Captive Bird is an incredibly captivating story.

Taught from a young age that girls are supposed to obey, be silent and modest, Forugh always found some way to rebel, from gossiping with her sister in her mother’s garden, to play-fighting on the roof with her brothers. Forugh also writes poetry, sometimes just for herself and sometimes to try and impress her strict father. But just as Forugh’s exploration of her own self-expression through poetry really begins to take flight, she is forced into a marriage she does not want. Not one to suffer demanded obedience, Forugh runs away only to find herself in a love affair that inspires her goals of liberation and independence, and acts as fuel for her poetry.

Forugh’s poems are both loved and hated; to some, she is a national celebrity, her poems considered brilliant. To others, her poetry is too scandalous to be allowed, too influenced by Western culture. But Forugh remains strong and continues to live her life on her own terms, no matter the costs, still as independent and rebellious as when she was a child. With the upheaval in Iran growing more restless as the days pass, Forugh continues to write, her poetry reflecting her strength, her belief in freedom, and giving voice to the women of Iran.

With the material that is considered throughout this novel  – Forugh’s life, the Iranian Revolution, the beginnings of feminism in Iran – it’s easy to see how an author might fail to write a cohesive and holistic narrative. But Jasmin Darznik carefully weaves each thread together, creating a masterpiece of a tapestry. Inspired by not only Forugh’s poetry, but her letters, films and interviews, Song of a Captive Bird is a colorful, vivid and magnetic novel.

Song of a Captive Bird is available for purchase now. For more information on author Jasmin Darznik, please visit her website at jasmin-darznik.com. For those interested in the poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad, please read the free preview below of her translated poetry collection, ‘Another Birth.’

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image courtesy of jasmin-darznik.com

Jasmin Darznik was born in Tehran, Iran, and moved to America when she was five years old. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. Her work has been published in thirteen countries and recognized by the Steinbeck Fellows Program, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the William Saroyan International PrizeHer stories and essays have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in fiction from Bennington College and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. Now a professor of literature and creative writing at California College of the Arts, she lives in Northern California with her family.

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Rachel Fogle De Souza was born and raised in Connecticut, and traveled extensively throughout Europe, parts of Asia, and the United States, before attending college at the University of California, Davis, where she received a B.A. in Comparative Literature, with a double minor in Women, Gender and Sexualities studies, and Middle Eastern/South Asian studies. When she's not writing, she's reading, boxing, or thinking about traveling.

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