Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
The 1950's were a turbulent time in Iran. Regime change ushered in progress and the country was trying on Western ways, which were fully embraced by some and despised by others. Coming of age during this time was especially difficult, especially for young Forugh, who is strong-willed an a bit rebellious anyway.
Forugh notices the freedom to go out that her teenage brothers have and begins to feel constrained by her culture's (and parent's) demands that she stay at home. Soon she is meeting her handsome older cousin for brief rendezvous in the alley behind their home. He introduces her to modern poetry, as he is among Iran's literati society himself. In only a few weeks, Farugh's parents learn of her meeting with him and marry her off to him quickly to help save her name.
At only 16, Farugh is married and forced to move far from her home to live with her husband and her mother-in-law. Farugh hates living there and begins writing poetry to cope. She becomes a mother and feels trapped by what her traditional life is demanding of her. So she begins sneaking to Tehran on the the train, saying she is visiting her family, but in reality she is taking her poems to various newspapers and publishers and is having some amount of success getting them published. One of the publishers is particularly taken with her words and they begin a relationship.
This relationship, and the publishing of her work, sets Forugh on a path that she never imagined, a path that has never before been trod by an Iranian woman. A path that leads to heartbreak, admission to a mental hospital and electroshock therapy, that loses her custody of her son, that brings her true love finally, and that results in her early death, but leaves her in infamy.
This book was an absolutely amazing look at a brave and imperfect woman who sacrificed everything to live the life she wanted, to speak the words that needed to get out of her soul. It was an interesting examination of patriarchy, and its effect on women that don't fit into its mold, although full of many instances of men who genuinely thought they knew better what was right for Forugh than she knew for herself. Self-determination is Forugh's legacy, and I hope the women of Iran know what a gem they have in her story.