Book Review: Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa (ARC)

Daughters of Smoke and Fire

Author: Ava Homa

Publication Date: 12 May 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Political Fiction

Pages: 304

Publisher: ABRAMS

The unforgettable, haunting story of a young woman’s perilous fight for freedom and justice for her brother, the first novel published in English by a female Kurdish writer.

Set in Iran, this extraordinary debut novel takes readers into the everyday lives of the Kurds. Leila dreams of making films to bring the suppressed stories of her people onto the global stage, but obstacles keep piling up. Leila’s younger brother Chia, influenced by their father’s past torture, imprisonment, and his deep-seated desire for justice, begins to engage with social and political affairs. But his activism grows increasingly risky and one day he disappears in Tehran. Seeking answers about her brother’s whereabouts, Leila fears the worst and begins a campaign to save him. But when she publishes Chia’s writings online, she finds herself in grave danger as well.

Daughters of Smoke and Fire is an evocative portrait of the lives and stakes faced by 40 million stateless Kurds and a powerful story that brilliantly illuminates the meaning of identity and the complex bonds of family, perfect for fans of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun.

I’ll be honest, Daughters of Smoke and Fire was not initially on my radar since I don’t typically read a lot of political fiction or literary fiction for that matter. That being said, I was drawn to the synopsis because I am not well versed in Middle Eastern culture, and I do try to branch out of my comfort zone for reading in order to constantly challenge myself and beliefs.

The story follows the life of Leila, a young Kurdish woman growing up in the turmoil of Iran. Leila dreams of going to University to become a filmmaker in order to document the struggles and oppression that her people deal with on a daily basis. But as a woman, society has different expectations and rules for her to follow.

Leila’s brother Chia, who is haunted by the torture his father endured in prison, decides to become a social and political activist in order to fight the oppression of their people. However, the more Chia gets involved, the more dangerous things become until one day he disappears from the streets of Tehran. Now Leila is determined to find her brother, but vocal women in society places a target on her back. Can Leila save them both?

Y’all, this book was so damn painful to read because of the oppression, the injustice, and the hypocrisy. Leila’s anger and rage became my own. Leila is fierce and refuses to succumb to the injustices that have been placed before her. Even though standing up for what she believes in has the real consequence of death, she doesn’t let that stop her.

The author crafted a beautifully written story that reminds us how the bravery of one individual has the ability to change the mindset of many. This story is full of tragedy, despair, love, and hope. Don’t go into this book thinking it will be an easy read because it won’t be. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to make you upset. But this story is so important and reminds us that we still have a long way to go to get to a world of equality and peace.

Thank you to ABRAMS for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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