Iranian-born writer Jasmin Darznik will read from her book, “The Good Daughter: A Memoir of my Mother’s Hidden Life,” at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 5, in the Browsing Room at Cochran Library. The reading is free and open to the public.
Darznik, who lives in Charlottesville and teaches English and creative writing at Washington and Lee University, came to America from Iran when she was only three years old. She grew up knowing very little about her family’s history. When she was in her early 20s, she discovered an old photograph that showed her mother, Lili, wearing a wedding veil, next to a man Darznik had never seen before.
At first, her mother refused to speak about the picture, but a few months later, Darznik received the first of 10 cassette tapes containing the hidden story of her family’s true origins in Iran: Lili’s marriage at 13, 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 the author’s sister, Sara — “The Good Daughter” — was still living in Iran.
Since the book was released last spring, Darznik has given more than 50 readings at bookstores, universities, writing groups, libraries and book clubs. Now, “The Good Daughter” will be published in 13 countries, which has created quite a buzz outside of the U.S., as well.
“On a given week I may get emails and Facebook messages from people as far as India, the Netherlands and Australia,” Darznik said. “Of course Iran, and the greater Middle East, remain topical, and I attribute some of the interest to that.”
Her memoir, she added, seems to have created a genuine interest in readers to better understand “a part of the world that often seems menacing from the vantage point of the press.”
But it’s not just curiosity.
“Readers have expressed both sympathy for what the women of my family endured and admiration for their ingenuity and tenacity,” she said.
What is even more interesting to Darznik, however, is the fact that so many readers can relate to her story on a personal level.
“You would not imagine the number of people who have pulled me aside and shared some long-repressed family secret of their own. Many readers, and not only Iranian ones, identify with the strictures and the hardships that the women of my family endured and also with the secrecy in which those experiences have been enshrouded. Stories of domestic abuse in particular seem to resist being told.”
“As a memoirist that’s an enormously gratifying response, to feel that by telling your story you’ve made a reader think about the secrets and the stories that have been repressed around and even within them,” she said.
This is the first time Darznik will share her memoir with the Sweet Briar community.
“We’re lucky to have such an accomplished writer with a fascinating history living and working nearby,” said John Gregory Brown, professor of English and director of creative writing at Sweet Briar.
“I hope many students will take advantage of this opportunity to hear her read from — and discuss — her memoir.”
Darznik was born in Tehran, Iran, and received her Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. A New York Times Best Seller, “The Good Daughter” is her first book.
Darznik’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere. She has received awards and distinctions from the San Francisco Foundation, Marin Arts Council, Steinbeck Fellows Program, Zoetrope: All-Story, Iowa Review, Norman Mailer Colony and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
Aside from teaching English and creative writing, Darznik has taught Iranian literature at the University of Virginia. As a 2011-2012 fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, she is currently working on a novel set in 1960s Iran. For more information about the author, visit jasmindarznik.com.
For questions about the reading, email [email protected] or call (434) 381-6434.
Contact: Janika Carey