x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Good Daughter: Incomplete denial of a former life in Iran

The author's discovery of a photo of his mother at age 13 begins the heartbreaking story of her first marriage, as a child, and the daughter she gave up as a condition of her freedom.

The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life by Jasmin Darznik (William Heinemann)
The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life by Jasmin Darznik (William Heinemann)

Jasmin Darznik was helping her mother move house after her father's death when a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. It was "like all the photographs that came with us when we left Iran ... supple and thick as leather". But this was a picture she had never seen. It was her mother, Lili, taken at the age of 13 on the day she became a bride for the first time.

The photograph had survived decades and revolution. It had survived everything - even "her mother's will to forget".

Because, long before she married Darznik's father and revolution saw the family flee Iran for America, Lili had been married to another. She had his child when she was only a child herself.

The truth of this "hidden life" in Iran, of an abusive marriage and the daughter Lili was forced to abandon as a condition of her own escape through divorce, emerges haltingly and imperfectly in a series of tapes posted to Darznik by her mother. It is a bleak tale, exquisitely crafted; a tale of loss and discovery, of a daughter's duty and the unbreakable bond of a mother's love.