In Marin / READING LIST
MM: What drew you to Iranian poet and
filmmaker Forugh Farrokhzad?
JD: The longer I write, the more I believe
that stories choose us, rather than the other
way around. When my family left Iran in
the late 1970s, my mother brought just one
book: a book of Forugh’s poems. For years
I read all I could about Forugh, not knowing it would lead me to write a novel. She
wrote about desire, about pain, about courage; reading her was a revelation. The very
existence of those poems challenged the
stereotype, so prevalent then, and prevalent
still, that Iranian women were silent victims of fate. In those poems I found proof of
everything America was telling me Iranian
women were not and that Iran was telling
Iranian women they shouldn’t be. Bold, brilliant, lustful, angry, difficult. Those poems
saved me. They still do.
MM: The theme of women is featured in
your works. Do you think we’re making
progress as a society and around the world?
JD: For too long we’d taken feminism for
Author Talk Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin
Darznik (Larkspur), Ballantine Books,
$27. In Jasmin Darznik’s spellbinding
debut novel, the famed Iranian poet
Forugh Farrokhzad takes center stage
in a story set against Iran’s pivot
toward Westernization in the 1940s.
Writing with the same grace, humor and poignant
observational detail that made her best-selling memoir The Good Daughter an unforgettable read, Darznik
rightly celebrates Farrokhzad’s role in birthing a feminist movement in Iran. A compassionately written,
inspiring work of fiction, Song of a Captive Bird proves
Jasmin Darznik is a master of her craft and a modern
voice of immense talent. Appearing at Book Passage
Corte Madera February 5, 7 p.m.
Beyond These Walls by Tony Platt
(Berkeley), St. Martin’s Press, $29.99. By
surveying the history of punishment
in the United States, UC Berkeley
scholar Tony Platt unveils a telling and
troubling side to our country’s past,
present and possible future. Platt
traces the roots of America’s criminal justice system
from its origins to its current state of over-incarceration.
Arguing that politics both domestic and international
influence our perceptions of danger and thus inform our
criminal justice policies, Platt offers a strategic vision for
what will be required to achieve justice for all in this era
of authoritarian disorder. Appearing at Book Passage Corte
Madera February 4, 7 p.m.
The Art of Dying Well by Katy Butler
(Mill Valley), Scribner, $26. One
certainty of life is that none of us
can ever be fully prepared for what
— if anything — comes after death.
Thankfully, best-selling author Katy
Butler has crafted the best possible
guide to what comes just before in The Art of Dying
Well. By breaking down the dying (and living) process
into stages, Butler offers practical and sage wisdom
on a number of pertinent issues that range from when
to hold off on dialing 911 to the benefits of having
a younger doctor. Appearing at Book Passage Corte
Madera February 19, 7 p.m.
Local Page Turners
Reviews by Book Passage Marketing
Manager Zack Ruskin.
We sat down with Larkspur’s
Jasmin Darznik to discuss her
new book, Song of a Captive Bird.
granted — so much so that it became a
dirty word. That said, it’s tricky to make
broad pronouncements about women’s
lives in America, much less globally. For
me it makes more sense to scale it back to
a more intimate level. So take my story.
My grandmother, who was born in Iran in
1920, never went to school. She was a brilliant woman, but completely illiterate. My
mother was pulled out of school and married at 13. One generation later, there’s me,
an academic and a writer. I would say for
anyone like me who has had the privilege
of an education, or any kind of privilege,
really, it’s time to pay it forward.
MM: What is your favorite poem
JD: “Sin.” It’s a poem about desire from
a woman’s point of view. It landed like a
bomb in 1950s Tehran. That poem totally
changed her life — no story about her
would be complete without it.
MM: After delving into her life in this
unique way, what would you say to her,
given the chance?
JD: This year marks the 40th anniversary
of the Iranian Revolution. I think many
people are looking back and trying to
make sense of that time and its complex,
ongoing legacy. Forugh died in 1967 under
somewhat mysterious circumstances.
I’ve always wondered what would have
happened if she’d lived until the 1979
revolution. For many of us who left Iran,
I think the choice to leave — if we had it at
all — has been riddled with both loss and
possibility, and not just for ourselves, but
for the people and country we left behind.
So, if I had the chance, I’d ask Forugh what
her choice would have been, and if, given
all that has happened, she would make it
again now. CALIN VAN PARIS