1. Delijani’s gorgeous novel is based, at least partially, on the author’s own experiences—she was born in Iran in 1983—and the stories of her family and friends who lived through the Revolution. How are we to read her interpretation of the events that she describes? Can an author ever separate her own story from the fictional world she creates? Should she? How does our own history and upbringing affect how we as readers interpret what we read?
2. The capital city Tehran is the backdrop for much of the action in this story, and is in some ways almost a character on its own. And yet some characters are drawn to the city, against all odds and in the face of all logic, while others are lured away from it, for education, for safety, for reasons they can’t explain. How does proximity to the city affect the decisions different characters make? In what ways does landscape shape who we become?
3. The characters we meet throughout this book often don’t immediately seem to be connected, but it is slowly revealed how intricately intertwined their stories are and how each of their experiences brings them close to each other as if they were a family. In what ways is this like real life? How is it different? How do you think history plays a role in creating bonds between people that otherwise will not have existed?
4. The children born after the Revolution are affected by what happened to their parents, and to their country, in different ways. And yet each, in their own way, wants what Donya wants, to “finish everything their parents left undone.” (p. 223) How do you see each of the characters of the younger generation wrestling with this in different ways? Do you think this is a universal theme? Does every generation essentially fight the same fight? How do you see this in other cultures and other periods in history?
5. “Truth,” Sheida says, when she finds out her mother has lied to her about how her father died, “cannot have so many sides.” (p. 181) Do you agree?
6. “If it’s anything that can easily be articulated in an article, then it’s an insult to put the same thoughts and ideas into the language of poetry,” Omid says. “It sullies its essence, because poetry is there to say what cannot be said.” (p. 220) Do you agree with his sentiments? How does this affect the form this story takes? Why do you think the author chose to write a novel based on her family’s experiences instead of a nonfiction piece? Do you think poetry or a novel can ever communicate a message better than nonfiction?
7. “We all have a tree inside of us,” Ismael has told Azar. “Finding it is just a matter of time.” (p. 36) What do you think this means? How do the characters reflect this? What does the jacaranda tree represent?
8. For each character, in one way or another, there's some hope that accompanies them at the end of their stories. The only character who is left with nothing is Donya. Why do you think this is?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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