Neda is born in Tehran's Evin Prison, where her mother is allowed to nurse her for a few months before the arms of a guard appear at the cell door one day and, simply, take her away. In another part of the city, three-year-old Omid witnesses the arrests of his political activist parents from his perch at their kitchen table, yogurt dripping from his fingertips.Read more...
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Neda is born in Tehran's Evin Prison, where her mother is allowed to nurse her for a few months before the arms of a guard appear at the cell door one day and, simply, take her away. In another part of the city, three-year-old Omid witnesses the arrests of his political activist parents from his perch at their kitchen table, yogurt dripping from his fingertips. More than twenty years after the violent, bloody purge that took place inside Tehran's prisons, Sheida learns that her father was one of those executed, that the silent void firmly planted between her and her mother all these years was not just the sad loss that comes with death, but the anguish and the horror of murder.
These are the "Children of the Jacaranda Tree." Set in post-revolutionary Iran from 1983 to 2011, this stunning debut novel follows a group of mothers, fathers, children, and lovers, some related by blood, others brought together by the tide of history that washes over their lives. Finally, years later, it is the next generation that is left with the burden of the past and their country's tenuous future as a new wave of protest and political strife begins.
"Children of the Jacaranda Tree "is an evocative portrait of three generations of men and women inspired by love and poetry, burning with idealism, chasing dreams of justice and freedom. Written in Sahar Delijani's spellbinding prose, capturing the intimate side of revolution in a country where the weight of history is all around, it is a moving tribute to anyone who has ever answered its call.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-03-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Born in 1983 in an Iranian prison, Delijani delivers a fictionalized account of her harrowing origins. This debut novel opens with blindfolded and handcuffed pregnant dissident Azar’s water breaking in the back of a van. During labor in the prison, Azar encounters both sympathetic doctors and iron-fisted interrogators. Her struggle to keep her story straight; limit stress to her baby, Neda; and get word to her family that she’s alive is heartbreakingly heroic. During the chaotic birth, Delijani rapidly shifts between locations and conditions, creating confusion and a maelstrom of imagery. After this strong opening in Evin Prison, Delijani turns from the powerful immediacy of Azar’s fight to the struggle outside, touching on the bleak sadness of four prisoners’ families over three repetitious sections. While the dissidents undergo random and brutal interrogations, their children are punished daily by the absence of their parents, and fear twists and deforms relationships, making the whole world a prison. At the book’s end, Neda reappears as an adult in Italy, contemplating her situation within a global context. A contrivance connects her to the Arab Spring through the son of a Revolutionary Guard, leaving it unclear if she’ll be able to fully transcend her bloody history. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (June)
The next generation's burden to bear
It’s 1983, the third year of the Iranian Revolution. Azar and her husband, both political activists, have been captured and are being held separately at Evin Prison. Azar is pregnant, a condition that brings her both hope and worry. What sort of life will a child born in prison, in a war-torn country, have to look forward to?
Omid is left sitting alone at the kitchen table after his parents’ arrest. He, his siblings and his cousin are raised by their grandparents while their parents serve time for their rebellion. What lessons can children of war learn from their parents’ experiences?
In her debut novel, Children of the Jacaranda Tree, author Sahar Delijani attempts to answer these questions while exploring the impact war has on its prisoners and those left safely outside. It’s a story Delijani knows all too well; she was born in prison during the Iran-Iraq conflict. And while both of her parents survived their imprisonment, Delijani’s uncle was one of thousands killed in a mass execution at the war’s end.
As the novel pings between the revolution of 1983 and the protests that followed the 2009 election, Delijani contrasts the experiences of parents and the children who follow in their footsteps decades later. Parents worry for their children as history repeats itself; the offspring come to realize how young and bold their parents were as they embarked on a revolution.
Children of the Jacaranda Tree is a beautifully rendered tale that reads almost like a collection of connected short stories, with characters’ perspectives and histories being unveiled as they intersect with one another. Throughout this thought-provoking account, a jacaranda tree stands as a stalwart witness to it all, providing comfort in its consistent presence.