I’m Jasmin Darznik, a novelist, memoirist, and professor. As a writer I’m drawn to stories about spirited and inspiring women from history. I especially love seeking out lost or forgotten tales and bringing them to life in ways that celebrate, enlighten, and empower women.
Jasmin Darznik is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bohemians (April 2021), a novel that imagines the friendship between photographer Dorothea Lange and her Chinese American assistant in 1920s San Francisco. Her debut novel Song of a Captive Bird was a New York Times Book Review “Editors’ Choice” book and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Darznik is also the author of The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. Her books have been published in seventeen countries and her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, among others.
She has been featured in numerous academic journals, newspapers, and popular media, including National Public Radio, The Today Show, New York Times, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Los Angeles Review, San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, MS., Vogue and other national and international venues.
Darznik was born in Iran and came to America when she was five years old. She holds an MFA in fiction from Bennington College, a J.D. from the University of California, and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. Now a professor of English and creative writing at California College of the Arts, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.
How I Started Writing
I wasn’t supposed to be a writer. Nothing in my first-generation immigrant background supported it, and so much impeded it. Still, I was a reader. As a child I left my small town library with novels stacked up to my chest and under my chin. I’d go home and luxuriate in the possibility of disappearing into different worlds. Beyond that was the twenty-room motel my parents bought when we came to America, a place of struggle and uncertainty. Books were my way out.
But writing? Even as I hacked away at the challenges that came with being an immigrant, woman of color, and first-generation college graduate, it still seemed impossible. I was expected to do something practical. When I decided to get a PhD in American literature, it was as if I was planning to run away with the Grateful Dead. I did it anyway.
Graduate school was an education not only in books, but in new possibilities. Reading Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on the Road, I found myself profoundly moved by the feeling these writers weren’t just telling me a story—they were telling me who they were.
Having grown up in a family where telling people who you were could be, and often was, regarded as a betrayal, these works were both a revelation and a provocation. That was a beginning, a very important one: to discover voices that spoke to me with an intimacy I rarely experienced in real life.
Still, I might never have crossed over from reading to writing if I hadn’t bumped into my parents’ next-door neighbor one afternoon when I was back home from graduate school. This was about fifteen years ago. We got to chatting and she told me she’d just published a book.
Hold up! I thought. Writing seemed like such an exalted profession. I’d never known a writer in real life. And now, suddenly, I did: the woman next door. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to ask my neighbor how she’d done it. She told me she’d enrolled in a creative writing workshop through our local independent bookstore, Book Passage, and that’s where she got her start.
That same day I walked over to Book Passage in Corte Madera, California and I signed up for a spot in the writer’s workshop my neighbor recommended. My classmates, mostly women, were strangers to me, people I’d likely never have met in any other context, even though ours was is small community. But once a week, Fridays, 6 to 9 pm, we were kin, bound together by our common love of stories and an urgent, if muted, desire to be speak and to be seen.
For two years, I showed up at that workshop every Friday night, pages in hand, heart kicking against my chest as I read for my allotted ten minutes. It was a time of discovery, in some ways the sweetest time of my writing life so far. I wasn’t writing to publish anything, though that might have shimmered as a distant dream; I was wholly taken up by the urge to make something beautiful and connect with others through stories.
That’s what got me started, and what keeps me going to this day.
I love meeting with book clubs around the world! For book club visits, interview requests, or speaking engagements, please leave a message here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dijkstra Literary Agency