Quick Review The complexities of being a parent making choices forever impacting children, and children forever remembering and reeling from their parents’ choices.
Delijani begins Children of the Jacaranda Tree with a booming voice describing a mother’s love and desperate journey for survival. With moments of roman á clef, it is evident the topic of the novel is very near to Delijani’s heart.
The novel is about children growing up against the backdrop of Iran in the midst of the war with Iraq and struggle with the revolution during the 1980’s as well as the early 2000’s. The adults are revolutionaries in prison or raising the children of revolutionaries in prison. The children are grown up trying to piece together the meaning of their lives in relation to their parents and their home country.
The jacaranda tree is in the backyard of a grandmother. Every character goes in and out of this woman’s house. Some stay longer than others, but the tree plays a very small role in the book. Though it becomes a powerful symbol for each person; though, to each person it symbolizes something different.
Delijani is able to write with a palpable sense of fear as it permeates every main and supporting characters’ life in Iran as women, as men, as people, as revolutionaries. The adults fear for their lives and their freedom; they fear how to explain reality to their children. Though the children are too young to comprehend, they are able to sense fear. Every parent must explain the revolution and Evin prison to their children, but each struggles to explain it in a different way. As every parent must explain struggle and hardship, they do the best they can.
History repeats itself. Though decades separate the struggles of the parents and the children, they end up fighting the same battles with the same repercussions always with a sense of fear they will end up in Evin prison, where their parents once were imprisoned. The children repeat their parents’ hopes, actions, lives, and even mistakes. Some children know the details of their parents’ pasts, and some do not. The actions and pasts of their parents belong to the children in one way or another impacting their lives.
Every character in the story is trapped. Some are physically bound, and others are restrained psychologically. They are trapped by past, by grief, by tradition, by prison, by family, by responsibility, by secrets, and more.
Delijani writes a vibrant and emotionally charged novel about a subject so often forgotten, glanced over, or blatantly ignored. It is difficult to imagine this being the reality children had to grow up in less than thirty years ago. Delijani is able to bring that reality to life by telling the stories of so many children left behind.
“It was important to her to know that she could choose those dresses, that this choice, although hidden from view, was still hers.”
“He was no longer anywhere.”
“The past is slippery, unreliable, like melting snow on marble stairs.”
“For secrets steal your childhood away from you.”
Title: Children of the Jacaranda Tree
Author: Sahar Delijani
Publisher: Atria Paperback (Simon & Schuster)