Book Review for the Rest of Us

The Life and Poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad

A review of Jasmin Darznik’s Song of a Captive Bird

Karla Strand
Feb 28, 2018 · 3 min read

Jasmin Darznik’s latest book is a novel based on the life and work of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad. Darznik’s first book, entitled The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life, was a New York Times bestseller. With her current work, Darznik tries her hand at recreating the life of Iran’s most provocative poet and filmmaker, and succeeds brilliantly.


Forugh Farrokhzad has been called “Iran’s Sylvia Plath” and lived a fascinating and heartbreaking life.

Born in Tehran in 1935, Farrokhzad created rebellious poetry and films that challenged embedded societal norms. She lived and died fighting for the freedom of women to live independently, to create fearlessly, and to love fully.

Farrokhzad’s poetry was intimate and honest at a time when being a “poetess” was not considered a serious profession for a woman. Against the backdrop of a domineering father, an unhappy arranged marriage, and a violent and stifling culture, Farrokhzad pushed Iran’s fundamentalist patriarchy to the limit. And she paid for it.

To live an authentic and meaningful life, Farrokhzad was forced to make numerous sacrifices. While some may condemn Farrokhzad for her recklessness or for certain decisions she made, readers of this book may not be so quick to judge.

Darznik leads her reader into the fear and limitations that came with daily life as an Iranian woman; the violence as well as the lack of agency, freedom, and education is infuriating to read about. Darznik did her homework and offers a detailed portrait of Farrokhzad while conceding an Iran of contrasting beauty and oppression.

Presenting readers with the honesty of Farrokhzad’s poetry and the reality of her circumstances, while challenging us with her tortured decisions, Darznik brilliantly evokes sympathy and understanding for Farrokhzad. We follow Farrokhzad throughout her captivities and glimpse the determination and sacrifices necessary for her to live the free and independent life she longed for.

Darznik has a poetic writing style herself; with Song of a Captive Bird, she provides readers accessible entry into Iranian literature and poetry, and specifically into the work of Forugh Farrokhzad.

One needn’t be a lover of poetry to appreciate this thoughtful and passionate story.


Title: Song of a Captive Bird
Author: Jasmin Darznik
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 274
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
My Rating: Highly recommended


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Karla Strand

Written by

Librarian, book reviewer, freelance writer: Ms. Mag, Pulp Mag, The Startup, Fearless She Wrote. Views only mine. https://www.karlajstrand.com/

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