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“The Good Daughter”

The reading world is now my oyster–I’ve finished up my reading for this year’s Notable Books List! And a great list it was.

But now I can read whatever I want–and I chose “The Good Daughter” simply by searching on “memoir” as a keyword in our catalog, and sorting by date for a recent one.

This is Jasmin Darznik’s story of her mother’s life, and a whole part of that life that was unknown to Jasmin until she came upon a photograph in her mother’s belongings, clearly a wedding picture of her mother (then very young) and a man who was not Jasmin’s father.

Jasmin knew that she had come to America from Iran when she was three, with her mother and German father. She grew up an American girl.

Although her mother at first refused to respond to Jasmin’s questions, eventually she sent Jasmin a series of cassette tapes telling about her childhood and young womanhood.

This period of time in Iran, the 1950’s and 1960’s, saw great change and transition. Some families remained very conservative in their expectations of women, insisting on veils and staying mostly at home, while other women wore Western dress and held career jobs. What Darznik does very well is use her mother’s story to describe that period of uneasy “progress.”

But in the end, it is her mother’s story, and I enjoyed it immensely despite her sometimes bleak circumstances. Darznik tells the story well, filling in information where necessary, letting her mother often speak for herself. I came to both love and hate the characters she drew.

I came away with a better sense of the social history of Iran, and with much admiration for her mother, who endured so much, and who continued persevering in America.

I’ll recommend this to many of my reading friends–the rewarding story, the interesting setting, and the issues of families generally and families reacting to social upheaval in particular, will gratify many different readers. This would be an excellent choice for a book group, too.

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