Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani
|Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Sometimes brutal, sometimes disturbing but always eloquent: a fictionalised account of life in post-revolutionary Iran based on the true experiences of the author, her friends and family.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: June 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Azar is in labour and about to give birth to her first child. Elsewhere she'd be looking forward to medical care for as long as she needs it and a good chance of a safe delivery. But this is Iran in 1983 and Azar is in the notorious Evin Prison for daring to believe in something different from the government. Amil saves date stones to make into a bracelet for his little baby as she grows into a child without him; he too is incarcerated. Even those on the outside need to be wary of what they say or do as Laila discovers when hair falls over her face while she's out walking. This isn’t the brave new world that the revolution was meant to provide, however it is the world in which they, their children and children's children will need to survive.
In 1979 the Shah of Iran was exiled and so Iran became the Islamic Republic of Iran, governed by Islamic law and intolerance of other faiths and political ideas. This is the Iran into which author Sahar Delijani was born. As life worsened (during one year in particular an estimated 4,000 – 12,000 political prisoners were summarily executed) some of her family escaped to the US (where she was raised) but many remained. Children of the Jacaranda Tree stands as witness to all who suffered with the true stories of Sahar's family and friends at its heart.
There are glimpses of Sahar throughout the book. The bracelet was what her imprisoned father made for her. The political activists working for a non-Islamic democracy are her parents, uncles and aunts. Sahar doesn't identify Azar's political party; it doesn't matter as he's a 'danger' to the state no matter what alternative views he holds. The story of those executed (as in the case of her uncle) was also included, making the whole writing process incredibly upsetting but Sahar needed to complete it to show us that no matter whether we're suffering or living lives of comparative ease, we're all the same with the same needs.
As we watch Azar struggle to give Neda life while hers is limited to a squalid cell, Sahar writes in a way that enables us to imagine what that feels like, even though our imaginings don't come close. When Amil is only allowed to hold Sheida, his daughter, for a few minutes once every couple of years we imagine our fathers in that position.
In the latter stages of the novel we see these babies as young people and adults hoping in vain that a new revolution would allow the freedom the first one denied, some by now from a life abroad. But in all cases we see that the scarring of their parents is visited down to their generation as the shadows of the anguish and futility remain, haunting them.
So in the end are we all the same? Yes, we all deserve the same freedom to breathe and watch our children grow, play and learn in happiness but we come away from this riveting cathartic tribute realising we aren't all the same at all. People like those within these pages who have been forged by these brutal experiences and yet still fight for that freedom (be it by pen or spoken word) that has eluded them and their loved ones are special and as such should be cared for, cared about and supported. The only question that remains is 'How?'.
If you would like to read more about the plight of modern Iran, we recommend Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani at Amazon.com.
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