The Path Backward 

Jasmin Darznik talks about “The Good Daughter” at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

click to enlarge Jasmin Darznik turned her mother's early experiences into a rich and complex memoir. The Iranian-American author, a Washington and Lee professor, will be a featured guest at this year's Virginia Festival of the Book.
  • Jasmin Darznik turned her mother's early experiences into a rich and complex memoir. The Iranian-American author, a Washington and Lee professor, will be a featured guest at this year's Virginia Festival of the Book.

The big one is upon us: The Virginia Festival of the Book is the largest gathering of authors, writers and readers in the mid-Atlantic, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a Virginia highlight, Jasmin Darznik, among this year's star-studded crew of literary attendees.

Born in Tehran, Iran, but destined for Princeton University, the weave of Darznik's history is rich and complex. She takes a keen eye not only to her own experiences in “The Good Daughter,” but also to those that led to her very existence.

“We were a world of two, my mother and I, until I started turning into an American girl,” she writes. “That's when she began telling me about the Good Daughter. It became a taunt, a warning, an omen.”

Her mother's story of being wed far too early and giving birth at age 13 — to another daughter she was then forced to abandon in order to save herself — is dark, hypnotic and well-told. It's only because of Darznik's accidental discovery of a photograph depicting her mother as a young bride next to a man she'd never seen that the story emerged. Months passed before her mother would speak about those parts of her life then unknown to Darznik, but she slowly opened up, recording her story on cassette tapes and mailing them to her daughter. Direct transcriptions of her neglect, abuse and eventual escape open each chapter, allowing her story to effortlessly intertwine with those of Darznik and Sara, her first daughter still living in Iran.

A prolific and dedicated young author, Darznik's work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and many others. She also focuses her creative energies on developing the gift of writing in others as a professor of English and creative writing at Washington and Lee University.

“I do hope that in the ensuing months and years, buried stories will come to the fore and that we'll hear woman's voices especially,” Darznik says. “Voices that have not been able to speak publicly.” S

Jasmin Darznik will appear with fellow authors Saloma Miller Furlong and Andrew Park at the New Dominion Bookshop at 404 E. Main St. in Charlottesville, on March 17 at 4 p.m. during the Virginia Festival of the Book. She also plans to appear in Richmond on May 3 at the Junior League's Book and Author Dinner. For information go to jlrichmond.org.

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