A year and half ago, I was privileged to read an excerpt from Jasmin Darznik’s first published book, The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. I was a student in her class on fabricated memoir, relieved to find out that Darznik’s story is one of truth.
I wrote this about the chapter she gave us to read:
She harvests a history that lived in the mind of her mother and beautifully garnishes it with the history of a culture that flows freely through her. This mix of memory and research is as close to truth as a memoir may be.
Darznik’s story, you see, is not completely her own. As the subtitle suggests, the story is mostly about the life she never knew to be her mother’s. (Darznik reminded listeners at her book launch the other day that she is “not even born until page 255.”)
Her book actually begins with the discovery of a wedding photograph, “a supple and thick as leather” (1). The photo was creased down the middle, she writes, and she “might easily have mistaken it for just another photograph.” The photo was of her mother, dressed like an Iranian bride of the mid-twentieth century. The groom standing beside her, though, is not Darznik’s father.
After some time passes, Darznik summons the courage to ask her mother what this photograph means. Her mother, furious at the discovery, refuses to tell anything about the picture. Some time later, she relents, sending Darznik cassette tapes she has recorded–tapes to tell her life story. The story from these tapes and subsequent research became the book finally released on January 27, 2011.
When I wrote my paper on Darznik’s book, I called it “The Good Memoir.” This was far from an effort to get an “A” in the class. (Darznik wasn’t grading our responses to her work!) Not only is her book exceptionally well-written, but it also honors the invisible contract between memoir and its readers.
I was lucky to receive an advanced copy of this book. I finished it just two days after the release. If I didn’t have six other books to read for school, I could have read Darznik’s book in a couple of days, no doubt.
Her book is without flaw, and I don’t say this just because we are friends. Her intimate character development lets the reader easily get to know and care for every relative she has. Her prose is sensuous and reads like poetry, à la Frances Mayes, allowing the reader to travel back to 1950s Iran with Darznik; to almost taste the “khageeneh” that her grandmother labors over; and to feel, quite vividly, the rage of the Iranian men who controlled everything about the women in their lives. The survival of these women, their ability to brook their marginalization in society, makes this book a page-turner. The flawless execution by the story’s teller demands the attention the book is bound to get.
A few weeks after the book was released, it made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. I congratulate Jasmin on all of her success. I hope that you, my faithful readers, will purchase a copy of The Good Daughter.