Children of the Jacaranda Tree. Sahar Delijani. Atria Books. June 2013. 288 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781476709093.
This is not a pleasurable read but a vitally necessary story. It’s fiction but the reality is so vivid, the tales it tells just have to be true. A constant state of increasing tension is riddled with a surrealistic ambience for Ashar, our first character, who is pregnant in jail and gives birth to her daughter Neda there. But Ashar will not be allowed to keep her daughter after she is done nursing her for three months. Add to that Ashar knows the baby will be taken from her but never knows when and so lives with the agony and fear for far too long, day after day after day!
Omid is a young boy who stares in shock as his parents are arrested and taken away while Omid is eating his breakfast yogurt. Too young to understand the horrific wrong done as a result of this brutal separation, he learns at a very young age to think, speak and act in a very careful way, knowing all too well that one’s happiest moments can be whisked away in a flash.
Sheida learns very quickly that her father was executed under the rule of Sadaam Hussein, but she didn’t find it out from her mother. No, her mother was so traumatized by the father’s arrest, she couldn’t bear to tell her daughter about his death. So the gap between the two grows until the day of truth arrives, and Sheida doesn’t get the horror of it for her mother. What did he do wrong? What was the penalty and why?
No clear revelations fill these pages and pages and pages of torturing questions in and out of jail. A constant juxtaposition of life and death keep the reader on guard with the same nervousness these people have endured for years and years. Many of these characters will escape this beloved but fearsome place, with the heart remaining behind and feeling guilty about not helping others in dire need. Independence and emigration come with such a high cost to these decent human beings forced to endure the worst torture and ill treatment mankind can provide. This is a notable work of historical fiction that should be read by all, indeed perhaps even be part of the educational curricula for high school classes. The reader can well imagine this account in movie form as well. Kudos to you, Sahir Delijani, for sharing this momentous, dignified work of Iranian history in fictional form.