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

Jasmin Darznik, Author
Jasmin Darznik, Grand Central, $24.99 (324p) ISBN 978-0-446-53497-0
Reviewed on: 11/29/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-446-53498-7
Open Ebook - 177 pages - 978-1-60941-836-6
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-446-55864-8
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-09-952548-6
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-434-01908-3
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4481-0673-8
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When Darznik (an English professor at Washington and Lee University) stumbles upon a photograph of her mother appareled and made up as a bride with a man not Darznik's father, she catches a glimpse into her mother's hidden Iranian history, a past that contains a former abusive husband and an abandoned daughter. Through cassette tapes made by her mother, Darznik recovers the lives of three generations of Iranians: her great-grandmother Pargol; her grandmother Kobra, whose marriage involves "countless separations, two divorces, and many more near divorces"; and her mother, Lili, in an account deeply enmeshed with other women's lives—aunts, mistresses, and in-laws. Darznik's telling veers closer to ethnography than memoir at times—courtship and marriage formalities, the complications of divorce for women, food preparation, household tasks, workplace details. Yet while the lives of Pargol, Kobra, and Lili are circumscribed by broad cultural strictures, each moves further toward unique individuality than her predecessor. Lili, married that first time at 13, does finish school, becomes a midwife, marries Jasmin's father (a German who converts to Islam to marry her), flees the Islamic revolution with her new family in 1979, makes a new life in the United States, and raises an American daughter. (Jan.)
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