LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER • A spellbinding debut novel about the trailblazing Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, who defied society’s expectations to find her voice and her destiny
“A complex and beautiful rendering of [a] vanished country and its scattered people, a reminder of the power and purpose of art, and an ode to female creativity under a patriarchy that repeatedly tries to snuff it out.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh Farrokhzad is told that Persian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds ways to rebel—gossiping with her sister among the fragrant roses of her mother’s walled garden, venturing to the forbidden rooftop to roughhouse with her three brothers, writing poems to impress her strict, disapproving father, and sneaking out to flirt with a teenage paramour over café glacé. During the summer of 1950, Forugh’s passion for poetry takes flight—and tradition seeks to clip her wings.
Forced into a suffocating marriage, Forugh runs away and falls into an affair that fuels her desire to write and to achieve freedom and independence. Forugh’s poems are considered both scandalous and brilliant; she is heralded by some as a national treasure, vilified by others as a demon influenced by the West. She perseveres, finding love with a notorious filmmaker and living by her own rules—at enormous cost. But the power of her writing only grows stronger amid the upheaval of the Iranian revolution.
Inspired by Forugh Farrokhzad’s verse, letters, films, and interviews—and including original translations of her poems—this haunting novel uses the lens of fiction to capture the tenacity, spirit, and conflicting desires of a brave woman who represents the birth of feminism in Iran—and who continues to inspire generations of women around the world.
Praise for Song of a Captive Bird
“If poetry is emotion rendered incendiary, then Forugh Farrokhzad was made of fire. . . . Song of a Captive Bird is an unsparing account of the necessity and consequences of speaking out.”—BookPage
“Sometimes, simply choosing whom to love is a political act.”—Vogue
“Forugh Farrokhzad’s short life brimmed with controversy and rebellion . . . .This feminist icon inspired Darznik’s imaginative debut.”—Ms.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Beautifully written historical fiction
Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
Song of the Captive Bird is based on the life of Forugh Farrokhzad, an Iranian poet, “a woman who battled to create a life on her own terms, to balance conflicting roles and desires, and to survive in an often-hostile world” (from the author ‘s note at the end of the novel).
When Forugh is 15 years old, she meets her cousin, Parviz for coffee at a restaurant defying her strict father. When she is found out, she is taken to a sleezy area of Tehran for a virginity test. This horrific incident sets the tone of the novel, the culture of 1950’s Iran where women are ruled first by their fathers, then by their husbands, they are not educated beyond 9th grade. Forugh is a rebel from the day she was born, often running away as a child, later flirting with Parviz, her cousin. She is one of seven children with a strict mother and a father whom she is told to call the Colonel. She is forced into a loveless marriage with Parviz, moves far from home with him and lives in a very hostile environment where her mother in law finds wrong with everything she does. Forugh starts writing poems and often escapes to Tehran trying to publish some of her poems. She becomes a mother, but her quest for freedom and expression is even stronger than her maternal instincts and when she is given an ultimatum by Parviz, she chooses freedom of expression over traditional Iranian married life. After the scandalous poems Sin she is taken to a mental institution against her will where she is drugged into oblivion. Leila, a close friend rescues her from there and invites her to live with her and to get her life back. She continues to write and eventually gets a job at a film studio where she advances to be a director of documentary films and carries on a long term affair with Darius, a married man.
In addition to Forugh’s personal life, the author describes pre-revolution Iran, student uprisings, kidnappings of enemies of the state and even murder.
I learned a lot about Iran, it’s culture, it’s treatment of women in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. This was a well written book, kept my attention throughout and my empathy for Forugh. After finishing the book, I researched the poet and found that the book painted an accurate picture of her life and as the author explained at the end, she fills in some gaps with fiction, where facts were not available.
Overall, I give this novel 5 stars and will be recommending it to my Book Club and will offer to lead the discussion. I will also seek out the author’s first novel, The Good Daughter.