Jasmin Darznik knew she had to tell her mother’s story first.
Jasmin’s first book, The Good Daughter, was a memoir about her mother’s first marriage as a young girl in Iran and the child she had to give up in order to divorce. When her mother told Jasmin this story, she knew she would have to write it. This book made her a writer, even though she already had two degrees in creative writing.
On this episode, we discuss her second book, and her first novel. After the smash success of The Good Daughter, Jasmin turned to fiction in order to tell the story of Iran’s most famous woman poet. Forugh Farrokhzad’s short life takes her through many of the same heartbreaking obstacles that Jasmin addressed in her memoir, along with many new ones. This book explores what it means to be a woman and an artist in a culture where women were shut behind closed doors and expected to stay there by the political and religious regime of her time.
We discuss resilience, writing fiction about real people, fighting to live the creative life, and the importance of telling stories to bridge culture and time to build what we all long for: connection and beauty in the world. It is wonderful to discuss a book like this, one that takes a poet like Forugh Farrokhzad, a household name in Iran, and brings her story to a new country that has mostly never heard of her. Get ready to be inspired!
Discussed in Episode 91 with Jasmin Darznik
- Song of a Captive Bird is her first novel.
- “I didn’t have plans to write. The story of family was given to me and made me a writer. I learned how to write through that book.” On becoming a writer through The Good Daughter.
- “Recreating the memoir was a kind of fiction so it wasn’t that different.” On making the jump from memoir to fiction.
- She had to play tricks on herself when writing her mom’s story. She couldn’t inhabit her perspective to tell the story the way the reader needed.
- “I had never allowed myself to even entertain that possibility.” On choosing to become a writer.
- If you have a background in literature you are aware of your own shortcomings.
- There are so many stories about Iran and Iranian women that haven’t come out yet.
- “You have to write the book that you’re looking for. I put myself in service of this story.” On seeing writing as service to stories the world needs to hear.
- “The engine that drives you has got to be a powerful one.” Why you should only bother to begin writing a book you are on fire to finish.
- You have to have a sense of doing something bigger than yourself when writing.
- So many people live with some kind of secret that is really hard to keep. And that cracks open in people and that is really gratifying as a writer.
- Jasmin’s second book takes on the most famous woman in Iranian history, Forugh Farrokhzad.
- “You need to set up lots of obstacles for your characters.” On writing good characters.
- When you love your characters so much you sometimes want to shield them from the worst.
- First person gives you a lot of access in one way but it cuts you off in another.
- Farrokhzad writes in a really bold, first person voice so Jasmin had to write in a way that felt consistent with that and her voice.
- “The terrible parts of their life that often becomes the source of great art or tremendous personality. It can destroy you or it can create you.” On overcoming hardships.
- Readers are sometimes discomfited with characters who are not totally likeable.
- Farrokhzad’s gravesite is a place of pilgrimage and people flock there on the anniversary of her birthday on February 14th. During the protests in 2009, people held up signs with verses of her poems on them. She still has such a passionate influence on people.
- “Though she is writing at a different moment, the same questions of freedom, democracy, women’s rights, are the same questions that are deviling the Iran of today. It is not surprising to me that out of all the poets, Iranians have really seized her and is still one of the most powerful voices.” On people still being inspired by Farrokhzad.
- “Writing is power and I think that’s why we get so anxious about it. To say that I’m a writer is to really claim power. Giving voice to something is something so empowering.” On choosing to write a story about a important figure.
- It was much harder writing a family memoir than writing a story about Farrokhzad.
- “It has opened up a lot of possibilities for me because I did do this one thing that was really hard for me.” On going from writing a memoir to writing fiction.
- Writing came from a lot of momentum and Jasmin didn’t want to lose that, so she started writing right away.
- The process of getting into a new world and into a new story seems to entice people. It feels good and you don’t want to stop.
- “The writing itself is really what it is about. And I want to escape back into a story of my own making.” On creating new projects after one is finished.
A gift before you go...
Get your Copy of Meangingful Units, an eBook and Worksheet to get your draft done along with Footnotes, weekly literary love delivered right to your inbox.