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We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl. That's when she began telling me about The Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen. Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortl We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl. That's when she began telling me about The Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen. Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortly following her father's death, Jasmin was helping her mother move; a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. The girl pictured was her mother. She was wearing a wedding veil, and at her side stood a man whom Jasmin had never seen before. At first, Jasmin's mother, Lili, refused to speak about the photograph, and Jasmin returned to her own home frustrated and confused. But a few months later, she received from her mother the first of ten cassette tapes that would bring to light the wrenching hidden story of her family's true origins in Iran: Lili's marriage at thirteen, 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 Jasmin's sister, Sara - The Good Daughter - was still living in Iran. In this sweeping, poignant, and beautifully written memoir, Jasmin weaves the stories of three generations of Iranian women into a unique tale of one family's struggle for freedom and understanding. The result is an enchanting and unforgettable story of secrets, betrayal, and the unbreakable mother-daughter bond.


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We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl. That's when she began telling me about The Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen. Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortl We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl. That's when she began telling me about The Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen. Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortly following her father's death, Jasmin was helping her mother move; a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. The girl pictured was her mother. She was wearing a wedding veil, and at her side stood a man whom Jasmin had never seen before. At first, Jasmin's mother, Lili, refused to speak about the photograph, and Jasmin returned to her own home frustrated and confused. But a few months later, she received from her mother the first of ten cassette tapes that would bring to light the wrenching hidden story of her family's true origins in Iran: Lili's marriage at thirteen, 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 Jasmin's sister, Sara - The Good Daughter - was still living in Iran. In this sweeping, poignant, and beautifully written memoir, Jasmin weaves the stories of three generations of Iranian women into a unique tale of one family's struggle for freedom and understanding. The result is an enchanting and unforgettable story of secrets, betrayal, and the unbreakable mother-daughter bond.

30 review for The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program. (Awesome!) I did not know a lot about the recent history of Iran prior to reading this book, aside from having watched the movie Persepolis. It was a little hard to wrap my mind around all of the things that happen to the author's mother, which seem so medieval - these were recent events, relatively speaking. The author's mother is the same age as my mother. (Who had a very different life.) Th Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program. (Awesome!) I did not know a lot about the recent history of Iran prior to reading this book, aside from having watched the movie Persepolis. It was a little hard to wrap my mind around all of the things that happen to the author's mother, which seem so medieval - these were recent events, relatively speaking. The author's mother is the same age as my mother. (Who had a very different life.) The writing is a little simplistic - it's an easy read in that sense. But the story is very powerful, and carries the writing. The author's mother, Lili, had a fascinating life - she accomplished so much, with the odds stacked against her. (child bride, continued her education in spite of family & social pressure to stop, divorced, moved to another country without knowing the language, got a medical degree, remarried, practiced as an OB & neonatologist, opened a clinic for poor women, supported her extended family, moved to yet another country, owned her own small business, etc) Very inspiring stuff. HOWEVER. I was buzzing along, reading this, with a 4 star review in mind - okay writing, great story. Not the best book I've read this year, but nothing really wrong with it, either. And then I got to the end. The first 90% of the book takes place based on recollections that the author's mother recorded onto cassette tapes and mailed to her. (We conjecture - it is not specified whether or not the author conducted interviews with other family members or acquaintances.) The last 10% or so is based on the author's own recollections of her childhood and her young adult life. The big hook, for this story, which is given away in the title and the inside flap, is that the American author has a sister living in Iran that she never knew about until her mother divulged her first marriage & child late in life. Through the whole book, the reader is waiting for this revelation to occur in real-time - the story starts out in the recent past, with the author receiving the tapes, and then covers the family history from the author's grandmother until present day. When we reach the point at which the author now knows she has a sister, what does she do? Does she get on a plane and meet her sister in person, along with the nieces & nephews she now knows about? Does she bring her mother to Iran with her for a family reunion? Does she have her sister come to the USA to meet her? Is the author so fascinated by her mother's story, that she now needs to go to Iran and see for herself the places and people that were revealed to her in the cassette tapes? NO. The author never met her sister in person, because traveling to Iran to do so would "only be intruding on the life she had made for herself." IT WAS LESS INTRUSIVE TO WRITE AN ENTIRE BOOK ABOUT THIS INSTEAD????????? Alright, putting that aside, what does the author's mother think of the book that her daughter is writing? She kept her secret so well hidden for so many years, what are her thoughts about her daughter publishing this memoir and revealing all this to the world? Does she agree with this, or disagree, were the cassette tapes meant to be private? What happens after the author finishes listening to the tapes? Do mother & daughter become closer as a result? Clearly, the author now has a deeper understanding of her mother and her life, how does this change their relationship? What is her mother's life like now? We will never know, because the author NEVER TALKS TO HER MOTHER ABOUT IT. Or at least, not that she reveals in this memoir. I wish this author's editor at Hatchette had read a draft of this, and said, "Great story! Here are some plane tickets to Iran, go meet your sister and make this book several chapters longer! And talk to your mom! If you decide not to do these things, you have to give a valid reason why, other than I DIDN'T FEEL LIKE IT." And that's why this only has 3 stars from me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl That's when she began telling me about The Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen. Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortly following her father's death, Jasmin was helping her mother move; a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. The girl pi We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl That's when she began telling me about The Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen. Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortly following her father's death, Jasmin was helping her mother move; a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. The girl pictured was her mother. She was wearing a wedding veil, and at her side stood a man whom Jasmin had never seen before. At first, Jasmin's mother, Lili, refused to speak about the photograph, and Jasmin returned to her own home frustrated and confused. But a few months later, she received from her mother the first of ten cassette tapes that would bring to light the wrenching hidden story of her family's true origins in Iran: Lili's marriage at thirteen, 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 Jasmin's sister, Sara - The Good Daughter - was still living in Iran. In this sweeping, poignant, and beautifully written memoir, Jasmin weaves the stories of three generations of Iranian women into a unique tale of one family's struggle for freedom and understanding. The result is an enchanting and unforgettable story of secrets, betrayal, and the unbreakable mother-daughter bond. My Take: The trouble with memoirs is the author often forgets the audience and pontificates on the unimportant details like how sad an event felt or a disappointment with a person, etc. The author is a very articulate writer whose skill drew me into her grandmother's then mother's world without getting hung up on the injustices (which there are many). She does include detail that can be skipped like foods served at gatherings and such yet even these descriptions added to the experience. What I found most compelling about this book, besides the objective way the author paints the pictures of her family, is that it covers many decades and generations. Not only does this give a clear picture of the personalities but provides a political and historical framework. For instance, the author's grandmother was the 9th child in her family and had different expectations than the other children. Her mother was born shortly after Iran and Great Britain were in a conflict. "The Shah" was put into power at that time. The Revolution occurred in 1979 when the author was only 3 years old and immigrated to the United States with her parents. When watching the news at that time, the text at the bottom of the screen would read, "DAY 89" or whatever day it was in the hostage crisis. I remember the text and the tension. In particular, I enjoyed the strength of the women portrayed in this book. From a society where they had no power, they did the best they could given their circumstances. The patriarchal society was not kind to women or girls. They suffered horrible injustices. On the other hand, when "The Shah" was in power, there were societal changes that empowered women. The reader enjoys the transformation of the author's mother, Lilli, and of her grandmother. Her mother, married at 13, pregnant shortly thereafter, suffered as no child or person should have to endure. 12 years later she stormed back into town as an educated, beautiful, confident woman engaged to a European. A few years later found her in California enduring discrimination yet possessing determination regardless of her weariness. Even as she gave up her veils she was still an Iranian woman. Even though this is Jasmin's story, she adopts the idea that her story is the culmination of the women before her. She understands that when her mother talks about "The Good Daughter" she really is talking about the daughter she left in Iran. The one who has a completely different story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Azarin

    A simple look at the book-cover of The Good Daughter reveals that, unlike most of the other books in this genre, these memories don’t belong to the author but to her mother’s. This distance between the writer and the protagonist adds an element of fiction to the narration, which makes the book closer to a fictionalized memoir than a classic memoir which is only about the author's own memories, or at least this was my expectation. Now that I’ve finished the book, I should congratulate Jasmin for h A simple look at the book-cover of The Good Daughter reveals that, unlike most of the other books in this genre, these memories don’t belong to the author but to her mother’s. This distance between the writer and the protagonist adds an element of fiction to the narration, which makes the book closer to a fictionalized memoir than a classic memoir which is only about the author's own memories, or at least this was my expectation. Now that I’ve finished the book, I should congratulate Jasmin for her lovely way of praising her mother’s life. Extremely well-researched and written in an impeccable prose, this book shows Jasmin’s extra attention to details and descriptions, which in each scene it gives readers clear images of what they are looking at. The Good Daughter is a fun and fast read about the Iranian women’s misery during most part of the 20th century. Did you notice something paradoxical in the preceding sentence? If you did, then you have got the core of my critic of the book. But before talking about its problems, let’s first take a look at its strengths. Darznik’s starts her narrative in a spectacular way; shortly after her father’s passing, Jasmin, who is in her twenties, discovers an old picture of her mother as a young bride, but the groom sitting next to her mother is a total stranger. This is the main incident which set the story in motion and drives the author to find out more about her mother’s past. In spite of her mother’s initial refusal, Jasmin receives a first series of tapes in which her mother has revealed her secrets. After this brilliant opening scene, the next chapters will cover the history of this family throughout several decades. First, we flashback to the beginning of the 20th century and meet Kobra and Sohrab, the author’s grandparents. Next, Lili, Jasmin’s mother, becomes the story’s main character; she goes through a marriage at 13, a miscarriage, childbirth, physical abuse, and divorce while still being a teenager. She also has to give up on her rights as a mother and to leave her daughter, Sara, to her ex-husband, Kazem. In the later chapters, we learn about Lili’s trip abroad to study, her second marriage to Johann, coming back to Iran for a few years before leaving it as the revolution starts (leaving Sara behind) and finally getting settled in the Bay Area, USA. From this point on, we read the author’s own memories from that same period, which I found the best written scenes of the book. I hope Jasmin would write a follow-up to this memoir, perhaps a second book about her mother’s efforts to find Sara and their reunion. One of the main lessons I learned by reading this story was that no matter how hard the Pahlavis tried to bring about change, they were destined to fail. The society’s deep Islamic roots had made it impossible for their efforts to transform the archaic mind of the average Iranian man. Sohrab and Kazem might appear westernized and progressive, but their actions show that they're no different from the fanatic Iranian men who look at women as object and would consider the polygamy as his god-given right. As I said, I enjoyed most of the opening chapter and the last few chapters, told in a close first person, written beautifully, but I had a few problems while reading the chapters in between. My first critic of the book is its editing; there are too many anecdotes and unimportant characters, which could have been cut off from the final draft. I understand that the author is trying to remain truthful to her mother by preserving every little memory from those tapes, but in many of these stories not only they do not play an important role in the main narrative, but also they are predictable, so they left a feeling of “déjà-vu” in my mind. At some point, I wondered whether this feeling had to do with my own familiarity with similar tales, as I have also been aware of my own mother and grandmother's struggle to have a voice; or maybe I had read them in another Iranian memoir. It is true that Lili’s dark past is shared by so many, and I understand that sometimes the same story should be told and retold, but as a simple reader, I hoped to be surprised, shocked and stabbed, as Kafka says, while reading this familiar story as if I was reading it for the first time. My other critic is lack of attitude in Lili’s character. The story is told in a distant voice, without over-dramatization, which reduces the efficiency of the narration. There is a large amount of attention given to describing cultural elements, such as food, clothes, rituals and routines, but the same attention has not been given to show Lili’s state of mind, thoughts, or feelings. Lili is portrayed as a character that does not react the normal way, as we expect, as if she has been numbed by the chain of miseries in her life. Or, as if the average Iranian woman of that period was mostly fatalist who considered these unjust treatments as their destiny. Even though I can see that through her actions Lili is struggling to change her life, but this obvious lack of emotion was too disturbing. I would have loved to know more about Lili’s deep feelings and pain. Sometimes Lili acted almost like a dead fish, while being abused, and it was hard to understand why. As the first chapter and the last ones were enough proof that Jasmin Darznik knows how to depict her characters’ emotions, knows how to grab her reader, and how to move them, so I could only conclude that she should have made a conscious choice of showing Lili as a numb character. This lack of attitude could be part of the author’s effort to stay objective regarding the miserable situation of women in Iran, but I think that the story could have had a stronger impact on the reader if Lili hadn’t hidden her pain. This book is an elegant and memorable way that the author has chosen to show her love and devotion to her mother, and also for her country of birth. It is clear that Jasmin Darznik has conducted an impressive amount of research to create a believable image of Iran during the past century, and she is very successful in the depiction of an Iran that many don’t know. This book, I am sure, will be a great success, especially among the non-Iranians, as it creates a believable universe, and as an Iranian reader I feel this urge to clean up my own acts and to think thoroughly about what I call our nationalistic nostalgia and to distinguish the good from the bad, the shameful traditions from the genuine gestures of kindness. Even though the “Good Daughter” was the surname of Sara, Lili’s abandoned child, but I personally think that Jasmin is the real “Good daughter”.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marianna

    Exceptionally well written. Gives a small glimpse into life in Iran (and really most of the Middle East) in the 40's, 50's and 60's. I believe that a careful reading will give Western minds much insight into the culture of that region. While life for women is different today, the cultural mores in place then continue to inform the culture today. I have two complaints with this book however. One, there are no pictures. They would have done much to enhance the story. Two, the ending seemed abrupt. Exceptionally well written. Gives a small glimpse into life in Iran (and really most of the Middle East) in the 40's, 50's and 60's. I believe that a careful reading will give Western minds much insight into the culture of that region. While life for women is different today, the cultural mores in place then continue to inform the culture today. I have two complaints with this book however. One, there are no pictures. They would have done much to enhance the story. Two, the ending seemed abrupt. Jasmin made no attempt to meet her half-sister and there is no mention of any conversations Jasmin and her mother, Lili, had following the receipt of the tapes. This is Lili's story, but yet it's also Jasmin's and Sarah's. Yet, we have no idea how Jasmin reacted to her mothers' early life. We have no idea what their convesations were. Even if it wasn't positive it would have been nice to have seen the mother daughter connection at the end.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The Good Daughter has everything I love in a book. It's an intimate look into another culture, a woman's relationship with her mother, and her journey towards understanding and truth. It's an honest and beautifully told memoir of a modern American woman who is seeking to understand and appreciate her deep, deep roots. In writing The Good Daughter, Jasmin Darznik has succeeded eloquently on all accounts. This story is so rich and layered, it's almost hard to believe that it's a memoir and not a n The Good Daughter has everything I love in a book. It's an intimate look into another culture, a woman's relationship with her mother, and her journey towards understanding and truth. It's an honest and beautifully told memoir of a modern American woman who is seeking to understand and appreciate her deep, deep roots. In writing The Good Daughter, Jasmin Darznik has succeeded eloquently on all accounts. This story is so rich and layered, it's almost hard to believe that it's a memoir and not a novel. It seems like the creation of someone's dreams, only the charaters are too deep and too real to be fiction. The women in these pages are so strong, but they are vulnerable too. They feel deeply and love passionately, and endure so many things. They are heartbreakingly intelligent at a time when education for women was so hard to come by. Lili's life is so full of richness and poorness, fortune and misfortune, love, luck, and misunderstanding. How can one life hold this much diversity? It is a life that was waiting to be told, and Jasmin Darznik has done so beautifully. This book takes the reader through the facsinating recent history of Iran, from the time before the installation of the pro-western Shah, through Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution and to the present day. Can you imagine being a woman and living a life in which you are brought up to see women veiled, then told to remove the veil and to embrace a western Iran, and then finally to be again under a veil and told to reject those things? So much dramatic change in one lifetime! I have been fascinated by this for some time, and this book has really allowed me to see that world intimately. I would also recommend Rick Steve's Iran, a one-hour documentary on the country of Iran. I found this documentary to be very un-biased and mostly non-political. The intention was to meet the people of modern-day Iran and show their lives, clear up the many, many misunderstandings and misconceptions that Americans have when facing Iranians and their country, and to show the beauty of the country itself. As our world becomes smaller and smaller, I believe it to be our responsiblity to educate ourselves and seek to understand the people of Iran. As I do this, I am greeted by a warm and loving community that holds many of my same values near and dear to their hearts. I enjoyed this book so much. I felt like I was in Tehran when I would read it at night, and during the day I was waiting to get back there. I loved it! I hope this author is busy at work on her next project! Her prose is beautiful and she's a natural story-teller. It's a truely beautiful story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I wish I'd liked this one more. It was interesting to learn about the lives of women in Iran over the past 50+ years, but I didn't love the author's style and ultimately wondered how she could remain so detached from the story herself, given that it was her own parents and grandparents she was writing about. The story is terribly sad, as Darznik recounts her grandmother and mother's lives of poverty, abuse, oppression, vulnerability and sacrifice. As an American woman (in all of my modern, immod I wish I'd liked this one more. It was interesting to learn about the lives of women in Iran over the past 50+ years, but I didn't love the author's style and ultimately wondered how she could remain so detached from the story herself, given that it was her own parents and grandparents she was writing about. The story is terribly sad, as Darznik recounts her grandmother and mother's lives of poverty, abuse, oppression, vulnerability and sacrifice. As an American woman (in all of my modern, immodest ways) I couldn't help but feel both astonished that woman still live this way in other parts of the world - completely dependent on men who treat them like servants, prostitutes, or just plain dirt - but also grateful that my own culture has moved past such beliefs and practices, in comparison. As a biography it would have been much more engaging to have more input from Darznik and could not understand how she related this entire, gut-wrenching story without including some serious reflection on her national and familial roots. Is she just too young? Shallow? I don't understand. This could have been written by a complete stranger in the exact same manner as it was written by the main character's own daughter. I left it being so dissatisfied with the author's lack of heart, faith, loyalty and revelation.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    The author grew up in California, the only daughter of an Irani mother and a German father, and as she grew up American rather than Irani, her mother would compare her with the Good Daughter back in Iran, who was a girl devoted to her mother and who would never dream of dating or wearing short skirts or rebelling against her mother’s authority. The author grew up and moved to New York; in her middle twenties her father died, and when she and her mother were sorting through boxes, the author foun The author grew up in California, the only daughter of an Irani mother and a German father, and as she grew up American rather than Irani, her mother would compare her with the Good Daughter back in Iran, who was a girl devoted to her mother and who would never dream of dating or wearing short skirts or rebelling against her mother’s authority. The author grew up and moved to New York; in her middle twenties her father died, and when she and her mother were sorting through boxes, the author found a wedding photo of her mother, aged about fourteen, with a man who was not the author’s father. From this beginning comes a riveting tale of the lives of the author’s mother and grandmothers in Iran, in a book that I very much enjoyed reading. Once the author confronts her mother Lili with the photo, the mother refuses to speak of it; but then, with the author back in New York, the mother begins sending her cassette tapes (ten in all), telling of her life in Tehran and of the lives of her own mother, her grandmother, and of the “Good Daughter”, the half-sister that the author never even knew she had. The tapes tell of an Iran in which veiled women live at home (rarely getting an education of any kind) before a husband is selected for any given woman by her family, following the confirmation of the bride’s virginity. Women have no real existence outside of the lives of their husbands or sons; A husband’s authority over his wife (or wives) is absolute; and divorce is unheard of, as a divorced woman is considered to be damaged goods and unmarriageable. As we learn of the lives of Lili’s grandmothers, of her mother and father, and of her own life, kept hidden from her American daughter, we see an Iran that is gradually becoming more Western under the influence of the Shahs of the House of Pavlavi, Rezā Shāh (ruled 1925 – 1941) and his son Mohammad Rezā Shāh (ruled 1941 – 1979). The book reads like a novel, as the author herself does not arrive in the story until relatively near the end of the book. But the author realizes that each of the women in her family history worked with what they had to make their lives better and to try to improve the lives of their daughters, in the best way they could manage. It is observed midway through the book that foreigners either see Iran as the cradle of civilization and culture or as a Medieval backwater; after reading this book, one realizes that the truth of Iran before the 1979 Revolution lies, as usual, somewhere in between the two extremes. And I very much enjoyed reading this book, and I will thank the member of my Third Tuesday Book Club who lent the book to me when I see her at this month’s Book Club Meeting and return the book to her.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Raina

    If you are not familiar with the recent history of Iran prior to reading this book you may find it a bit difficult to wrap my mind around all of the things that happened to the author's mother. This is an easy read in how it was written but it was very difficult to read having grown up how I did in the United States being extremely fortunate to have not had to deal with such things. This story is VERY powerful and truly transforms the simplicity of the writing. The author's mother, Lili, lead a If you are not familiar with the recent history of Iran prior to reading this book you may find it a bit difficult to wrap my mind around all of the things that happened to the author's mother. This is an easy read in how it was written but it was very difficult to read having grown up how I did in the United States being extremely fortunate to have not had to deal with such things. This story is VERY powerful and truly transforms the simplicity of the writing. The author's mother, Lili, lead a fascinating life accomplishing so much when all the odds were stacked against her. Her story is truly inspiring! However, 90% of the book is based on recollections that the author's mother recorded onto cassette tapes and mailed to her. Then, the last 10% is based on the author's own memories of her childhood and early adult life. The real problem with this book comes about towards the end. In reading the inside flap you learn that the author, who is American, has a sister she never knew about living in Iran. She only learns of her existance when her mother divulges the history of her first marriage and the child of that marriage. Through the entire story you are waiting with baited breath a revelation to occur. The story begins in the recent past when the author receives the tapes. As she covers the family history beginning with her grandmother until present day you reach the point where she learns she has a sister. What does she do? The unexpected! She does NOT get on a plane to meet her. She does NOT she bring her mother to Iran for a family reunion. She does NOT bring her newly found sister to the USA for a reunion either. Instead she writes an entire book about the whole history because she feels it would be less intrusive!!! WHAT?!?!? She actually says in her book that going to Ira to meet her newly found half-sister or to attempt a reunion between her sister and her mother or to want to try to develop a relationship of any kind between them and her recently discovered nieces and nephews would be "only be intruding on the life she had made for herself." How is basically writing a TELL-ALL book less intrusive?? So frustrating. This book which started off really brilliantly left me just shaking my head wondering what on earth the author and the editors were thinking.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    I was reluctant about this memoir but it grew on me. It is about Lili (Jasmin’s mother) whose early life in Iran she “erased” when she moved to America; oh the shame of having been married before with a baby (who she left behind)! Hard for us westerners to credit but real to her community. As Lili ages, she makes tapes about her early life for Lili to listen to and the book is the result. The style of writing was OK but rather pedestrian. I knew something about the Reza Pahlavi era in Iran, but I was reluctant about this memoir but it grew on me. It is about Lili (Jasmin’s mother) whose early life in Iran she “erased” when she moved to America; oh the shame of having been married before with a baby (who she left behind)! Hard for us westerners to credit but real to her community. As Lili ages, she makes tapes about her early life for Lili to listen to and the book is the result. The style of writing was OK but rather pedestrian. I knew something about the Reza Pahlavi era in Iran, but not about life in the home and the streets so I definitely learned something. But this woman’s life seemed not ho hum, but probably not so very different from other Iranian women who moved to America as 20-somethings.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Law

    Beautifully written and, reading this back to back with Song of a Captive Bird, I can see some of the places where Darznik drew on her mother's own story to flesh out the details and descriptions of Forugh Farrokhzhad's life. Beautifully written and, reading this back to back with Song of a Captive Bird, I can see some of the places where Darznik drew on her mother's own story to flesh out the details and descriptions of Forugh Farrokhzhad's life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    A compelling memoir of three generations of Iranian women who struggle to make life beautiful in spite of their circumstances. The stories of Jasmin’s mother’s life were based on ten cassette tapes she sent her daughter, finally revealing her difficult history. A beautiful book!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    This tale is beautifully rendered and brings the reader into the lives of women in Iran. Darznik shares details of family life and the rituals surrounding the Muslim faith and living in Iran primarily during the 1950s and 1960s. Central to most of the women’s lives seems to be food. Descriptions of food from the preparation of it to daily snacks to vast feasts served are prevalent in the book. The way Darznik writes one can almost smell the saffron infused cooking, feel the crack of seeds between This tale is beautifully rendered and brings the reader into the lives of women in Iran. Darznik shares details of family life and the rituals surrounding the Muslim faith and living in Iran primarily during the 1950s and 1960s. Central to most of the women’s lives seems to be food. Descriptions of food from the preparation of it to daily snacks to vast feasts served are prevalent in the book. The way Darznik writes one can almost smell the saffron infused cooking, feel the crack of seeds between teeth, or taste the tea brewed with cardamon. The rituals surrounding tea and food are something each generation brings along with them. At times the story is heart wrenching and had me on the verge of tears. Tales of the hardships endured stretch from images of war to financial difficulties to prejudices. A primary theme emerges when both the joys, but mainly the difficulties of love and marriage are described. Darznik goes into detail about the process of courtship and marriage in the Iranian culture. The imagery in this story draws the reader deeply into the tale. The book is written so well that it was hard to pull myself away from it. For someone with little knowledge of Iran or the Iranian culture this book provided a small glimpse into the life of one family and the generations of women in it. There are great introductions to small Persian phrases and Darznik writes so that one who has little knowledge of the traditions and society of Iran can follow the story easily. It was a wonderful way to get a feel for Iranian society, especially in the 1950s & 1960s, as well as a sense of what it is like to be an immigrant in America and the child of an immigrant. See my full review here.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This is called a memoir but also seems to be an adult daughter's coming to terms with her past. The author knew nothing about her own history nor her mother's life in Iran until she saw a photograph of her mother as a young teen dressed as a bride. Her mother would not talk about it, but subsequently recorded her life story on tape which she sent to her daughter and which became this book. I had a series of reactions while reading. This will sound harsh, but I have gotten tired of the horror stor This is called a memoir but also seems to be an adult daughter's coming to terms with her past. The author knew nothing about her own history nor her mother's life in Iran until she saw a photograph of her mother as a young teen dressed as a bride. Her mother would not talk about it, but subsequently recorded her life story on tape which she sent to her daughter and which became this book. I had a series of reactions while reading. This will sound harsh, but I have gotten tired of the horror stories of child brides and savage husbands and horrible mothers-in-law. At least in this book, the mothers-in-law are generally kind people. Are there/were there any kind or normal men in the Arab world? (One of the things I loved about Toss of a Lemon was the normal and kind relationship between the older husband and his child bride - that story is set in India) My next reaction was appreciation of how well the author demonstrated the importance of education for women. Many women in the story are powerless because they have no options - they cannot even communicate with each other, cannot read directions, cannot write. I also appreciated how the book illustrates the time period when Iran was becoming Westernized but still heavily traditional. The flurry of activity, the homes bought, sold or foreclosed, the fortunes made and lost gets hard to follow. I think the book is trying to show the importance of outward affluence in assuring good contacts and a good marriage (this was done masterfully in House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus). Finally I appreciated the daughter's need to write this book. It still just gets a 2 = probably a 2+

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    I read this book for the January book club at church. I can't for the life of me figure out why they chose it. I read the reviews of the book before I read it, and that may have been part of the let-down. I was preparing to be "inspired" and "enthralled." I ended up being "pissed off" and "aggravated." There is nothing inspiring about women who continue to endure abuse generation after generation for themselves and their children. I understand the cultural aspects at play here, but these women w I read this book for the January book club at church. I can't for the life of me figure out why they chose it. I read the reviews of the book before I read it, and that may have been part of the let-down. I was preparing to be "inspired" and "enthralled." I ended up being "pissed off" and "aggravated." There is nothing inspiring about women who continue to endure abuse generation after generation for themselves and their children. I understand the cultural aspects at play here, but these women were extremely hard to empathize with. When not chasing after men who continually divorced them or who chased after second wives or who beat them or who drank to excess, they couldn't even support each other. They were catty and cruel and back-handed. As mothers, they gave birth to daughters who would go through the same life path because they all raised boys who were destined to treat their wives the same way. They catered to their young sons' every whim and as their boys aged, they indulged their weaknesses by buying them liquor and paying their gambling debts. The great irony is that none of the characters in The Good Daughter is "good."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina Rutter

    This story begines with the passing of Jasmin's father. After being away from home for a long time Jasmin Darznik travels home to see her father sent off to Germany for burial, and help her mother pack her things for the move to more affordable housing. It's while packing things away that Jasmin comes across a photo of her mother as a young bride with a groom that is not her father. This baffles Jasmin, and needless to say piques her curiosity. What follows is the story of how that photo came to This story begines with the passing of Jasmin's father. After being away from home for a long time Jasmin Darznik travels home to see her father sent off to Germany for burial, and help her mother pack her things for the move to more affordable housing. It's while packing things away that Jasmin comes across a photo of her mother as a young bride with a groom that is not her father. This baffles Jasmin, and needless to say piques her curiosity. What follows is the story of how that photo came to be. For all of Jasmin's life her mother had carefully hidden her past, but now she was bringing that past to life through a series of tape recorded sessions Jasmin recieved in the mail. In this book Jasmin shares the stories that were on those tapes with us. This is truelly an amzing story, and definately one of my new favorites. There's more than one story in here, this is the story of a family through many generations. I wont ever forget this book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Jasmin's mother, Lili, has an incredible story to tell, but only reveals it on cassette tape after Jasmin has left their home in the Bay Area for New York and the life of a writer. . . and after Jasmin's German father has died. That's when she finds a picture of her mother as a very young bride, with a groom who is not Jasmin's father. The story details the changes that were happening in Iran during the Pahlavi era, both in public and in private lives. The real story is the transformation of Lil Jasmin's mother, Lili, has an incredible story to tell, but only reveals it on cassette tape after Jasmin has left their home in the Bay Area for New York and the life of a writer. . . and after Jasmin's German father has died. That's when she finds a picture of her mother as a very young bride, with a groom who is not Jasmin's father. The story details the changes that were happening in Iran during the Pahlavi era, both in public and in private lives. The real story is the transformation of Lili from a strong little girl forced to marry at 13 into a strong, educated woman, and the sacrifices that the women of her family made to ensure the safety and happiness of their daughters, a real tightrope walk.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mala Ashok

    Jasmin Darznik has written a powerful memoir with great sensitivity. She has captured the essence of what it meant to be a woman in Iran over three generations. Even the youngest, Sara, seemed to show in her picture that even though she was young , "Barely fourteen years old..she knew everything she would need to know: how to swallow a cry before it came." For someone brought up in America Darznik has done a remarkable job in her memoir of her mother.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    I did become very interested in this topic of an Iranian mother and an American daughter. Although the story really should be entitled something like My Mother's Trials and Joys In Iran, as the book details a life of hardship and happiness in a culture that really has had such a tough time granting women any say or any power. The book details Lili's (the mother) difficulties in her Iranian life. Forced into marriage at age thirteen to a sadistic man, she was beaten, kicked, and bitten into submi I did become very interested in this topic of an Iranian mother and an American daughter. Although the story really should be entitled something like My Mother's Trials and Joys In Iran, as the book details a life of hardship and happiness in a culture that really has had such a tough time granting women any say or any power. The book details Lili's (the mother) difficulties in her Iranian life. Forced into marriage at age thirteen to a sadistic man, she was beaten, kicked, and bitten into submission. The sad part was that she had no escape as her family she knew would not take her back. A divorced woman was considered like a prostitute even though a man can take on as many "wives" as he desired and divorce them with the saying a a few words. Women were oppressed and had no rights. To have survived, with extremely hard work is Lili's story. She came to America, but could never leave Iran in her mind. It was sad and pathetic how as her daughter matured, she grew more American and thus became more distant from her mother. The writing was quite good and the daughter discovers her mother's past through a series of tapes sent to her by her mother. It is then that the daughter realizes that her mother really can't help who she is, that life with many cruelties has shaped what she has become. The only issue I have with this book, is that the ending fell flat. The author just ended it and I did feel that Lili's story deserved something better, perhaps some kind of flourish that gave affirmation to the hard and tragic life that was given to her.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jinnychoi

    I had a hard time putting this book down. I found the story to be sad and powerful at the same time. I felt that the women in the story, considering their background to be very strong women. It very easy to inject our own experiences and viewpoints onto these women. For example saying that these women should have left their abusive and drunk husbands or gone against traditional customs of marriage and expectations. We cannot take our own cultural and moral beliefs and impart them on to what thes I had a hard time putting this book down. I found the story to be sad and powerful at the same time. I felt that the women in the story, considering their background to be very strong women. It very easy to inject our own experiences and viewpoints onto these women. For example saying that these women should have left their abusive and drunk husbands or gone against traditional customs of marriage and expectations. We cannot take our own cultural and moral beliefs and impart them on to what these women should or should not have done and then pass judgement upon them. Many readers say that they don't feel as if a life like this realistic and cannot relate to these circumstances. Perhaps, a reader's goal in this case isn't to identify with the characters but to merely observe and learn about a completely different lifestyle without passing judgement based on our own customs. I don't think that it is really possible to compare our lives to what these women's lives are like in Iran. Considering their circumstances, I found Lili to be a very strong willed and loving mother. I also liked how it ended. Life is not easily put into a neat box with a satisfying ending. The author's decision not to seek out her sister (or at least include it in the book) made it very much her mother's story, which I think was her goal. I think we have tendency of wanting to find out more, stirring up drama, wanting to know what's behind all the doors--and often forget the beauty of letting things be and finding peace the the way things are.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kalpana Palaniswamy

    This is a poignant memoir of Lili, written by her daughter Jasmin. The book discusses how Lili kept reinventing herself as iniquities of life were hurled at her.The story of Lili unfolds when she sets out on a journey to explain their roots to Jasmin. Lili is such an amazing character,who underwent various hardships from an young age and she sailed through her tough times with fear, anger and determination. At 13, After a devastating relationship with her first husband Kazem and relinquishing th This is a poignant memoir of Lili, written by her daughter Jasmin. The book discusses how Lili kept reinventing herself as iniquities of life were hurled at her.The story of Lili unfolds when she sets out on a journey to explain their roots to Jasmin. Lili is such an amazing character,who underwent various hardships from an young age and she sailed through her tough times with fear, anger and determination. At 13, After a devastating relationship with her first husband Kazem and relinquishing the custody of her daughter Sara, Lili goes to Germany for her higher studies. It is also the time when her very supportive father Sohrab( although an abominable husband to her mother Kobra) dies. In Germany Lili meets her would be husband Johann, and they both head to Iran to wed and start their lives. This is when you realize the smartness, the prudence with which Lili steers her life. She helps her husband kick start his business, and also helps her mother Kobra set up a salon. Lili also dedicates herself along with her friend Mariam for a social cause. When the revolution set in, Lili realized that they should leave Iran. Lili, Johann and Jasmin leave Iran to the United States. Lili is very protective of Jasmin and gives her the best education possible. This memoir beautifully weaves the mother-daughter relationship and leaves your heart pining for Lili. Lili is someone who will inspire most of the women with her grit and compassion.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karalynn

    If I encountered this book in a store, I would not feel inclined to pick it up, nor take it home with me and consume it. The premise of this memoir sounds mediocre at best, but I gave it a shot since my book club decided to read it for the month of August. Brief Summary: Jasmine Darznik writes about her Iranian mother's entire life. Hook: Her mother, Lilli was married and divorced before meeting Jasmine's father; she also has a daughter, Sara, from her first marriage. Admittedly, I enjoyed readi If I encountered this book in a store, I would not feel inclined to pick it up, nor take it home with me and consume it. The premise of this memoir sounds mediocre at best, but I gave it a shot since my book club decided to read it for the month of August. Brief Summary: Jasmine Darznik writes about her Iranian mother's entire life. Hook: Her mother, Lilli was married and divorced before meeting Jasmine's father; she also has a daughter, Sara, from her first marriage. Admittedly, I enjoyed reading about Lilli's early life despite the memoir's somewhat bland and unoriginal writing style. Lilli manages to overcome an abusive marriage, and build up her life through her career. However, I kept expecting Lilli to rescue her first born daughter; this never happens. Throughout the rest of the novel, Sara, aka "The Good Daughter," is alluded to, but never brought back into the spot light. Under the circumstances, I understand why Lilli lost connections with Sara; however Darznik should have included more reflection from both Lilli and herself on this topic. Without additional insight into Sara's life/ reflection on the absence of Sara's presence in Lilli's life, the book's title seems inappropriate. Since the concept of "The Good Daughter" is barely explored, I would call this book "A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life." That's all.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Meg Mardian

    Having grown up in Iran and being familiar with Persian customs and traditions, I found this book difficult to read only for the reason that I felt too much of the pain and sadness of the characters, and they were close to home. So I would say this is a very accurate portrayal of the hardships that women face there. The idea of the good daughter and the good girl have been with me my whole life, and I'm sure for many other people it also helped mold the person they became. It's even harder to co Having grown up in Iran and being familiar with Persian customs and traditions, I found this book difficult to read only for the reason that I felt too much of the pain and sadness of the characters, and they were close to home. So I would say this is a very accurate portrayal of the hardships that women face there. The idea of the good daughter and the good girl have been with me my whole life, and I'm sure for many other people it also helped mold the person they became. It's even harder to come from an immigrant family and suddenly get introduced to feminism and ideas of equality and women's rights. I've felt a similar struggle in my own family when this happened to me. It's great to be able to bring this story to light and show a side of this big life change that many people do nor see or understand.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura Murphy

    As someone working on writing the story of her father's life, I was intrigued by this book. The author tells the story of her mother's life (and through that, also a good deal about her grandmother's life). She labels it a memoir, and this is something that has always perplexed me - is writing another person's memoir not a biography? That said, it really doesn't matter. The book is lovely. Poetic at times, but overall completely accessible. There are scenes portraying violence against women, and As someone working on writing the story of her father's life, I was intrigued by this book. The author tells the story of her mother's life (and through that, also a good deal about her grandmother's life). She labels it a memoir, and this is something that has always perplexed me - is writing another person's memoir not a biography? That said, it really doesn't matter. The book is lovely. Poetic at times, but overall completely accessible. There are scenes portraying violence against women, and they are well-written, but will distress some readers. Depictions of traditions and even common best medical practices in Iran throughout the 20th century are fascinating to an American woman. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was like sitting down for a long tea with a new friend and learning all about her world.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    This book was a fast,ok read. It did offer a new perspective on the life of a female in the Shah's Iran and in America after evacuating during the revolution. The shouthearted way these women kept striving to make their lives and thier childrens lives better regardless of the circumstance is remarkable. While the insight was enlightening the charactors did not pull me in and really make me a part of them. After reading the book it does not draw you back to relive any part of the experiences of t This book was a fast,ok read. It did offer a new perspective on the life of a female in the Shah's Iran and in America after evacuating during the revolution. The shouthearted way these women kept striving to make their lives and thier childrens lives better regardless of the circumstance is remarkable. While the insight was enlightening the charactors did not pull me in and really make me a part of them. After reading the book it does not draw you back to relive any part of the experiences of the chartactors. You are also left with questions like " what happened to all the land Kobar was secretly buying with money from her husbands pockets?". All in all a good book to break away from your normal reads but nothing like " the Toss of a Lemon" or even the old " Joy Luck Club".

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    It's hard to rate this book because while I loved the voice and the story was fascinating, there were so many parts that I just found frustrating. It goes without saying that the men were abusive and domineering and selfish, but the women? Rather than band together and support each other they were back-biting and vindictive and just plain horrible. I just couldn't imagine some of the cruelties that they imposed on each other during dark times. And I thought that Lily was hypocritical. How is it It's hard to rate this book because while I loved the voice and the story was fascinating, there were so many parts that I just found frustrating. It goes without saying that the men were abusive and domineering and selfish, but the women? Rather than band together and support each other they were back-biting and vindictive and just plain horrible. I just couldn't imagine some of the cruelties that they imposed on each other during dark times. And I thought that Lily was hypocritical. How is it that Jasmin couldn't go away to school when Lily left home to gain an education on her own? How could she have held her so tightly to the "Good Iranian Daughter" standard when she herself had deviated from the norm?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I'm really in a memoir mood as of late. I love to read these "true" stories and take brief glances into the everyday life of other people. This book was especially interesting because the characters are so different from me. I loved learning more about Iran including some of the history and traditions of the Islamic protagonists. These types of stories always remind me of those universal truths that we all share, no matter how different we may seem. We all yearn for kindness and acceptance; peac I'm really in a memoir mood as of late. I love to read these "true" stories and take brief glances into the everyday life of other people. This book was especially interesting because the characters are so different from me. I loved learning more about Iran including some of the history and traditions of the Islamic protagonists. These types of stories always remind me of those universal truths that we all share, no matter how different we may seem. We all yearn for kindness and acceptance; peace and understanding. Darznik's prose is beautiful, I loved her descriptions of Iran especially the traditions and foods!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Abegail

    My friend gave me this book and it made me want to learn more about Iranian culture. The chapters on the wedding got to me the most, along with her tense relationship with her tired, struggling father. The mother proved that even across borders, mothers do not waver on their beliefs, values, or children. Great read and nicely paced.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thart2002

    I didn't finish the book. It was interesting hearing about culture but otherwise I just found the book boring. It was written okay but just went on and on about every detail of Lily's life. I found myself wanting to skim/skip pages when I realized I didn't have to finish it. I read for enjoyment. If I don't enjoy it time to put it away.

  29. 5 out of 5

    M.H.

    Not great, not terrible.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I found this memoir a fascinating window into Iran and most particularly the lives of women in Iran. It reads as though it is a novel and I found it impossible to put down.

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