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The Streetlight Reader

Just another 23 year old from Toronto who enjoys reading Adult fiction, YA Fiction and Non-Fiction. Okay I read anything I think is worth reading :).

Book Review: Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

Children of the Jacaranda Tree: A Novel - Sahar Delijani

Cover Gushing Worthiness: The cover of Children of the Jacaranda Tree is one of the most beautiful covers of the year for me. It reminded me of the cover from Julie Wu’sThe Third Son .I love how the Jacaranda Tree is the focal point while the city is faded in the background.




"We all have a tree inside us. Finding it is just a matter of time."
I first heard about this book from Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner and I was thrilled when I got approved by Netgalley to read an ARC of it. Most of you who are regular visitors to my blog know about my background in Middle Eastern and East Asian History. I’m always interested in reading books about Iran because nobody seems to know a lot about the country. Plus this is the first book I've read which addresses the political situation in post-revolutionary Iran.

One of the first things I should point out is that if you're planning on reading this book for a plot, then you will be disappointed because there isn't one. Instead Children of the Jacaranda Tree focuses on two generations of Iranians: those who were political activists once Ayatollah Khomeini assumed power and their children. These individuals are scattered across America, Germany, Italy and Iran. The lives of all these people intertwine at some point within each person’s story, but there is no end game. It’s about shedding light on events that many people, especially people from my generation are unfamiliar with.

Children of the Jacaranda Tree jumps back and forth between the times of the Iran and Iraq war, the 2009 Green Revolution and 2011. Because there are so many alternating perspectives and time shifts it was difficult to keep track of which character was which and what was their relationship to A, B or C. But the more I think about it, maybe it wasn't so much about remember the character specifically. Maybe it was about remembering and appreciating the experience of those who went to prison or were executed because they wanted to ensure their generation and future generations would have the freedom they so desperately craved, wanted and deserved. That’s what I came away with in the end.

This book is eye-opening and heart wrenching at the same time. It’s not just heart-wrenching because of the experiences of characters, it’s also about the strained relationships between family,spouses, children and friends. For the younger generation it’s about trying to and coming to terms with their parents’ experiences, but also respecting and understanding the experiences of their comrades who participated in the 2009 Green Revolution movement. I think what struck me the most was the stories of the younger generation. It was interesting for me to see the men and women who now lived in the States, Germany and Italy come to Iran and interact with Iranians. It was almost as if it was a foreign concept to them and they didn’t know how to behave. Furthermore there were those people saw those coming from abroad as foreigners who didn’t really know what was going on in Iran and how do they have any right to make any opinions. I think I was glued to this aspect of the story so much because I've been there, I know what its like to live in the west and go back to your country of origin only for people to think you're ‘westernized’ and haven’t got a clue on how that part of the world functions. As much as you can feel angry for such judgments, it’s normal and I appreciated Delijani addressing the difficulties for both parties to understand each other’s experiences. One paragraph that stood out for me was when Donya, an Iranian American visiting said in regards to the Green revolution

"They might have identified us, but we also identified with each other. She feels a bit shy saying ‘us’ when she was not here, when she only watched everything on the news, thousands of miles away."

I thought those were powerful sentences in their simplicity. How we can feel connected to something that is happening across the world, even without being there and having the fear of people judging you for referring to yourself as one of the people who participated when you weren’t present physically.

The ending of this book is ambiguous and that’s where the beauty lies. A story was told and its up to the reader to decide what will happen in the end. Yes there were times I wanted more answers, but Delijani’s writing leaves you in a state of contentment over the answers that are provided to us.

There are many positives to take away from this book, but there are things that kept me from completely enjoying this book. Mainly it was the multitudes of alternative perspectives along with the time shifts. It felt disjointed and therefore sometimes it would be frustrating because there would be references to other incidents which took place in the book and as a reader I was trying to remember what the character was talking about. Maybe it was just me, but I think another reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much was because I read it in ereader format. I think if I had a hard copy I would easily have been able to flip back and forth between stories to pick up information in order better understand the character’s story I was reading about.

Overall Children of the Jacaranda Tree is was a great and poignant read for me. It was a reminder of the freedom we sometimes take for granted, it was about life and the heartbreak that comes with it. Sarah Delijani’s debut novel is bound to resonate with readers everywhere for its beautiful prose and construction of a country that was supposed to be so much more in the eyes of its people.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Would I recommend it? Yes

You can read my interview with Sahar Delijani here.

Children of the Jacaranda Tree is published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. It will be released on June 18, 2013. This Advanced Reader Copy was obtained from Netgalley. Thank You Netgalley for providing this copy in exchange for an honest review.