Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel

This novelized biography (432 pages) was published in February of 2018 by Ballantine Books. The book takes you to 1950s and '60s Iran. Melissa read Song of a Captive Bird and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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Song of a Captive Bird

A Novel

Jasmin Darznik

Burning with an intelligence and a rebelliousness that couldn’t be contained, Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad poured her passion into words that have inspired readers for decades. This is the unforgettable story of her too-short life.

Forugh grew up in a traditional, mid-20th-century home in Tehran with rooms split between women’s and men’s quarters. It was a house that ‘turned from the world and cast its gaze inward, a house whose women believed the very walls listened for sin, a house where we whispered the truth or didn’t speak it at all.’ This domain was ruled by a father she was to refer to only as ‘Colonel’ — never father; it was forbidden — and a mother trapped in the spiral of tradition and fear.

But Forugh was a spirited girl who wanted to run in the streets with the boys, shooting marbles and playing soccer, rather than hiding on the balcony above, spying on the life denied to her.

She eventually found an outlet for her impulsive and argumentative nature in poetry, writing in secret and, later, after her poems were discovered by her disapproving father, memorizing her verses to recite them to herself.

Not even someone as strong-willed as Forugh could completely thwart expectations; she eventually succumbed to an unhappy marriage and a complicated love affair. Her life is a study in contrasts of abiding by tradition and fighting convention with often heartbreaking results. Through it all, her poetry sustains her, inspires others, and, perhaps, brings about her downfall.

Inspired by Forugh Farrokhzad’s letters, films interviews, and the treasure-trove of her poems, this moving novel celebrates the persistence and talent of a remarkable woman — a feminist, a poet, a fully-realized woman with thoughts and desires of her own, in a time and place when that was not to be tolerated.

Outside, the heat rippled off the rooftops and forced a stillness over the streets and alleyways. Through the window came the scents of Tehran’s long summer nights: black tea steeped with rose petals and cardamom pods; coriander and cumin wafting up from charcoal braziers; the scent of the city, pungent and dusty, rising from the sidewalks; and the heady mix of honeysuckle and jasmine released by the first hot days of the year. Down in the streets of Amiriyeh, peddlers folded up their trestles, placed their trays on their heads, and set off for home. — Jasmin Darznik

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