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The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life [Kindle Edition]

Jasmin Darznik
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
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Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

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

Jasmin Darznik came to America from Iran when she was only three years old, and she grew up knowing very little about her family's history. When she was in her early twenties, on a day shortly following her father's death, Jasmin was helping her mother move; a photograph fell from a stack of old letters. The girl pictured was her mother. She was wearing a wedding veil, and at her side stood a man whom Jasmin had never seen before.

At first, Jasmin's mother, Lili, refused to speak about the photograph, and Jasmin returned to her own home frustrated and confused. But a few months later, she received from her mother the first of ten cassette tapes that would bring to light the wrenching hidden story of her family's true origins in Iran: Lili's marriage at thirteen, her troubled history of abuse and neglect, and a daughter she was forced to abandon in order to escape that life. The final tape revealed that Jasmin's sister, Sara - The Good Daughter - was still living in Iran.

In this sweeping, poignant, and beautifully written memoir, Jasmin weaves the stories of three generations of Iranian women into a unique tale of one family's struggle for freedom and understanding. The result is an enchanting and unforgettable story of secrets, betrayal, and the unbreakable mother-daughter bond.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Raised in California, Darznik never imagined that her mother Lili lived another life completely in Iran before marrying Darznik’s German father. Lili was married off at 14 to Kazem, a man who would prove to be violent and abusive. Lili gave birth to a daughter, Sara, but when Kazem’s abuse escalated, Lili knew she had no choice but to flee his house and seek a divorce. The move cost her Sara, as Iranian law dictates children stay with their fathers. Lili decided to go to school in Germany to become a midwife, but the sudden death of her father forced her to come back to Iran to earn money for her own and her brother’s schooling. When she returned to Germany, she drew the attention of the earnest German engineer who became her husband and the father of her second daughter, Darznik. Taken from tapes her mother sent her after Darznik discovered a photograph from her mother’s first wedding, Darznik’s memoir is a beautifully recounted homage to her mother’s life and struggles. --Kristine Huntley


"Truly mesmerising" Scotland on Sunday "A beautifully recounted homage to her mother's life and struggles." Booklist "Richly detailed ... An eye-opening account that disturbs with its depiction of women in Iranian society, but warms the heart in its portrayal of their gritty endurance." Kirkus "Deeply affecting...How can you not feel for these women? Once you read this book, you will see Iran and Iranians with new eyes. A brilliant debut." -- Anita Amirrezvani, author of The Blood of Flowers "'an astonishing tale of two cultures miles apart yet inextricably linked through the daughter or a woman who had the courage to stand up and be counted.'" Resident

Product Details

  • File Size: 1409 KB
  • Print Length: 335 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099525488
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 27, 2011)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0047Y16XK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,491 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, and a page-turner! January 17, 2011
If you like true stories that read like fiction, memoirs that carry through generations, and an astonishing amount of family secrets and suspense unfolding against an incredible and often heartbreaking historical background, READ THIS BOOK! I literally could not put this memoir down...

While I really enjoyed Darznik's rich details about life in Iran throughout the 20th century, this is really a story about women-- in turbulent, dangerous times, in impossible situations, caught between traditions and modern expectations. It is also the complex and intimate story of an extended family and the relationships that stretch and strain between them over several decades.

I cannot recommend this book enough!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting, unforgettable memoir February 9, 2011
Five weeks after her father's death, Jasmin Darznik is helping her Iranian mother, Lili, sort through their belongings in preparation for a move to smaller quarters. When a faded photograph falls out of a pack of letters, Jasmin is shocked to see her mother standing with a mystery man. Even more stunning is the fact that it's obviously a wedding picture and she appears to be in her early teens and on the brink of tears.

When Jasmin questions her mother about the photo and the circumstances surrounding it, her mother responds by announcing that it has nothing to do with her, leaving her to wonder who the man is and why she has never heard of him or this previous marriage before.

Eventually Lili breaks her silence and begins sending cassette tapes from her home in California to Jasmin on the East Coast. As she listens to each of the 10 tapes recorded by her mother over a period of time, Jasmin hears the story of her mother's life in Iran and comes to know her mother in a new and deeper way. Events from the past that made no sense are suddenly much clearer now.

Lili's story could belong to any woman raised in Iran during the same time period. An abusive husband, a family life that's too close for comfort and an environment where women have little or no say about their future is a world that Jasmin has no memory of. Although she was born in Iran, her family fled the Islamic Revolution and moved to America in the late '70s when she was only five years old, and she grew up in a different world from that of her parents. What Jasmin doesn't realize is that she is not her mother's first, or only, child. Jasmin has an older sister, Sara, the daughter of the man in the photo, who she has never met and who still lives in Iran.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and beautiful story January 19, 2011
By Mary B
I picked up the book and was immediately grabbed by the compelling story of a culture very foreign to most Americans, yet very relatable as fellow human beings. Darznik's mother's story is heartbreaking yet full of hope, perseverance and tenacity. Darznik weaves a beautifully descriptive narrative that covers three generations of mothers. It's one of those books you can't put down, and don't want it to end. Highly recommend it!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gripping read January 15, 2011
This book is a welcome diversion from the memoirs by Iranian women--it combines history, literary biography, and yes, excellent writing. Darznik's book identifies a story that is all too little known--women of Darznik's mother's generation were forced to marry at young ages (my own aunt at 14 to a man 27 years her senior) and faced a life of unhappiness. Because they were caught between tradition and modernity, it was usually tradition that won out. In order to secure their freedom from a kind of marital bondage (and in some cases abuse from husbands) these women could win their freedom by ceding custody of their children to a system that priveleged the father--and then they had to remake themselves anew in order to secure any kind of new life. Darznik eloquently and elegantly writes about a time in Iran that should not be forgotten. A must read! Beautifully written.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Good Daughter is a GREAT read January 15, 2011
This book combines the best of biography and literary, nonfiction by telling one of those stories that remind us that truth is more amazing than fiction, in a voice that is lively, witty, intelligent and exquisitely tuned to nuance and detail. Three generations of Iranian women spanning two continents against a backdrop of the last century's political dislocations and upheavals, told by a narrator with a personal stake and the literary chops to elevate her writing high above the run-of-the-mill memoir--what more could you ask from a book?
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
A simple look at the book-cover of The Good Daughter reveals that, unlike most of the other books in this genre, these memories don't belong to the author but to her mother's. This distance between the writer and the protagonist adds an element of fiction to the narration, which makes the book closer to a fictionalized memoir than a classic memoir which is only about the author's own memories, or at least this was my expectation.

Now that I've finished the book, I should congratulate Jasmin Darznik for her lovely way of praising her mother's life. Extremely well-researched and written in an impeccable prose, this book shows Jasmin's extra attention to details and descriptions, which in each scene it gives readers clear images of what they are looking at.

The Good Daughter is a fun and fast read about the Iranian women's misery during most part of the 20th century. Did you notice something paradoxical in the preceding sentence? If you did, then you have got the core of my critic of the book. But before talking about its problems, let's first take a look at its strengths.

Darznik's starts her narrative in a spectacular way; shortly after her father's passing, Jasmin, who is in her twenties, discovers an old picture of her mother as a young bride, but the groom sitting next to her mother is a total stranger. This is the main incident which set the story in motion and drives the author to find out more about her mother's past. In spite of her mother's initial refusal, Jasmin receives a first series of tapes in which her mother has revealed her secrets.

After this brilliant opening scene, the next chapters will cover the history of this family throughout several decades.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
A beautiful story - well-organized, wonderful details of a time in Iran that can no longer be seen, but only described. Ms. Read more
Published 2 months ago by E. Tait
4.0 out of 5 stars I did like the book
3&1/2 stars. I did like the book, but it left me feeling that a lot was embellished and not a true memoir. An interesting read.
Published 4 months ago by tr
4.0 out of 5 stars Revelation
This story gave me such insight in the lives of these women. It was difficult to put it down! What a truly inspiring tale.
Published 6 months ago by Mary L. Messler
5.0 out of 5 stars Opinion of The Good Daughter
I would not have just ordered this book by the title or review, but it was my book club's pick for February so I read it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by nana of 6
4.0 out of 5 stars "good"
I'm not sure I got why it was called the Good Daughter. I wish that would've been explained a little more clearly, on the other hand, the way it was written made it seem like a... Read more
Published 10 months ago by WillowGirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing up a daughter in the mideastern culture.
It was well written and informative about the Muslim culture for women. Also about trying to assimilate into the western culture. Read more
Published 11 months ago by S. Nichols
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read!!!
Absolutely excellent! A wonderful biography of the author's mother and the struggles of women in Iran in the 20th century.
Published 12 months ago by BusyMom
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This is one of those books I did not want to put down until finished. It gave me such insight as to a culture different from mine. I have recommended it to several friends.
Published 13 months ago by Jon Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving story
Hard to put down. A story of generations of women in this Iranian family. Each with a story of strength and sadness and finding success and happiness.
Published 13 months ago by Allison
5.0 out of 5 stars I quit.
This is just what I ordered. Amazon seems to think that I have nothing better to do with my time than rate books my wife orders and refuses to rate, because her time, watching all... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Wayne Hughes
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More About the Author

Jasmin Darznik's first book, The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into eight languages. The memoir was shortlisted for the 2012 Saroyan International Prize and was a finalist for the 2011 Reader's Choice Award from the Library of Virginia. Jasmin was born in Tehran, Iran and received her Ph.D. from Princeton University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. She's previously taught at Princeton, University of Virginia, and Washington and Lee University and now teaches in the Writing and Literature Program at California College of the Arts. An excerpt from her novel-in-progress appears in the anthology Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers (edited by Anita Amirrezvani and Persis Karim). Visit her website at

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