100 books like Song of a Captive Bird

By Jasmin Darznik,

Here are 100 books that Song of a Captive Bird fans have personally recommended if you like Song of a Captive Bird. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Sarah L. Sanderson Author Of The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

From my list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose to study creative nonfiction during my MFA program so I could learn what makes great memoirs work, but I first fell in love with the genre as a teenager, when I picked up Angela’s Ashes off my mom’s bedside table. I’m grateful for the way memoir gives me a window into the lives of people of other races, religions, abilities, experiences, and even other centuries. While my book The Place We Make isn’t only a memoir—it’s a blend of memoir and historical biography—it was my desire to both understand the view through my research subject’s eyes, and analyze how I was seeing the world myself, that drove me to write it.

Sarah's book list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes

Sarah L. Sanderson Why did Sarah love this book?

Persepolis is the book that made me fall in love with graphic memoirs.

I’ve typically been more of a word person than a picture person, but Satrapi’s stark black-and-white images make such creative use of the space on the page that I was converted. I learned so much about the history of Iranian conflict from this book—through the young girl eyes of its narrator—but my favorite part is the way Satrapi visually depicts her conversations with God.

After I read this book, I started drawing images of my conversations with God into my own prayer journal.  

By Marjane Satrapi,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Persepolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wise, often funny, sometimes heart-breaking, Persepolis tells the story of Marjane Satrapi's life in Tehran from the ages of six to fourteen, growing up during the Iranian Revolution.

The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-grandaughter of Iran's last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life.

Amidst the tragedy, Marjane's child's eye view adds immediacy and humour, and her story of a childhood at once outrageous and ordinary,…


Book cover of Tipping the Velvet

Michelle L. Teichman Author Of The Space Between

From my list on young adult books for women of all ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

At heart, I’m still just a girl. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of wanting to experience the excitement of first kisses, first loves, and of coming out, when everything was new and exciting, and the world was full of promise. That’s why we return to YA even as adults. To feel the butterflies of a first crush, the fluttering of first love, and the agony of first loss. Those transformative books, the ones that change the trajectory of our lives, are usually young adult novels. I wrote The Space Between to give readers a story to fall in love with and take with them the rest of their lives.

Michelle's book list on young adult books for women of all ages

Michelle L. Teichman Why did Michelle love this book?

If you identify anywhere on the LGBTIQ2+ scale and haven’t heard of Sarah Waters, you’ve likely been living under a rock.

Her debut novel, Tipping the Velvet, is probably better known as the three-part BBC series, but the book is what truly makes the characters come to life. From naïve, small town, oyster-girl in Kent to the life of the London Stage, Waters takes you through Victorian-era England via the point of view of beloved heroine Nan Astley.

If you’re looking for a sexy, sensuous, and downright gritty novel about what life was truly like for a ‘tom’ growing up and coming out in the nineteenth century, this is the book.

By Sarah Waters,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Tipping the Velvet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Piercing the shadows of the naked stage was a single shaft of rosy limelight, and in the centre of this was a girl: the most marvellous girl - I knew it at once! - that I had ever seen.'

A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance set in the 'roaring' 1890s, Tipping the Velvet follows the glittering career of Nan King on her journey from Whitstable oyster-girl to music-hall star to cross-dressing rentboy to East End 'tom'.


Book cover of The Bread Givers

Angel Dionne Author Of Sardines

From my list on Books that depict the existential pains of human existance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like to believe that my own characters struggle with being human. They struggle with their bitterness, their relations to others (or lack thereof), and their unresolved guilt. What happens when guilt is left unresolved? What happens when someone enters into a state of self-imposed isolation? These are topics I enjoy exploring in my work. I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a child. My mother deserves all the credit. At bedtime, rather than reading bedtime stories to me from a book, she would make up a story and then ask me to do the same. This helped me to develop a lifelong love for reading and writing.

Angel's book list on Books that depict the existential pains of human existance

Angel Dionne Why did Angel love this book?

I enjoyed Yezierska’s ability to effectively portray the struggles of a young girl growing up in a poor immigrant Jewish household. I found myself cheering Sara on as she yearned to escape her household and the expectation placed upon her to marry.

Yezierska’s use of language and vivid imagery made the act of reading an almost palpable experience. I felt as though I was living Sara’s life as she lived it herself.

By Anzia Yezierska,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Bread Givers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1925, Anzia Yezierska's "Bread Givers" is the tale of a young Jewish-American immigrant woman and her struggle to control her own destiny in Manhattan's Lower East Side at the turn of the century. The novel is based in large part on Yezierska's own life experiences immigrating from Poland as a child and growing up in New York City in an Orthodox Jewish family. "Bread Givers" centers on the story of its main character, Sara Smolinsky, who lives with her older sisters and parents in a poor tenement in the Lower East Side. The Smolinsky family is destitute…


Book cover of The Blood of Flowers

Susanne Pari Author Of In the Time of Our History

From my list on strong Iranian women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in New Jersey to an American mother and an Iranian father. I spent the first twenty years of my life living both in Tehran and New York, striving to fit and blend into whatever culture I happened to occupy at a given moment. I whined about this, wishing I was one thing or another. But after the 1979 Islamic Revolution erupted and my family was permanently exiled, I learned the true meaning of being careful about what you wish for. To connect with my lost Persian heritage, I began to write about it, and to write about living in the diaspora. It’s how I make sense of the world.  

Susanne's book list on strong Iranian women

Susanne Pari Why did Susanne love this book?

This is a historical novel that takes place in Isfahan during the 17th century, the height of that city’s artistic renaissance. Think: turquoise mosaics and sumptuous paisley textiles. The protagonist, a young girl whose fate changes when her father dies and leaves her without a dowry, is forced to work as a carpet weaver. Through hard work and study, she becomes a sought-after carpet designer at a time when Persian carpet design was at its pinnacle and an occupation relegated solely to men. There are some very well-crafted sex scenes, if you’re into that.

By Anita Amirrezvani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Blood of Flowers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sensuous and richly-imagined historical novel that centers on a skilled young carpet weaver, her arranged marriage, and her quest for self-determination in 17th-century Persia.

In 17th-century Iran, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the…


Book cover of Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran

Susanne Pari Author Of In the Time of Our History

From my list on strong Iranian women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in New Jersey to an American mother and an Iranian father. I spent the first twenty years of my life living both in Tehran and New York, striving to fit and blend into whatever culture I happened to occupy at a given moment. I whined about this, wishing I was one thing or another. But after the 1979 Islamic Revolution erupted and my family was permanently exiled, I learned the true meaning of being careful about what you wish for. To connect with my lost Persian heritage, I began to write about it, and to write about living in the diaspora. It’s how I make sense of the world.  

Susanne's book list on strong Iranian women

Susanne Pari Why did Susanne love this book?

This is a memoir by a 32-year-old Iranian-American journalist who, in 2009, was accused and sentenced to 8 years in Evin Prison for being an American spy. Paraphrasing my review in The San Francisco Chronicle, Saberi's skillful reconstruction of dialogue leads to a spot-on chronicle of the paranoia and utter buffoonery of the Iranian government and its apparatchiks. I was especially impressed by the way she survives her time in solitary confinement – the resources of her mind that keep her sane. Beyond that, this memoir is a kind of coming-of-age story for those of us in the diaspora who can be a bit naïve about how safe we are as journalists and US citizens in dictatorships. Saberi is freed after 4 months, thanks to international pressures, but she’s haunted by those she met in prison who are left behind. 

By Roxana Saberi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between Two Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Between Two Worlds is an extraordinary story of how an innocent young woman got caught up in the current of political events and met individuals whose stories vividly depict human rights violations in Iran.”
— Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

Between Two World is the harrowing chronicle of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi’s imprisonment in Iran—as well as a penetrating look at Iran and its political tensions. Here for the first time is the full story of Saberi’s arrest and imprisonment, which drew international attention as a cause célèbre from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and leaders across the…


Book cover of Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran

Susanne Pari Author Of In the Time of Our History

From my list on strong Iranian women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in New Jersey to an American mother and an Iranian father. I spent the first twenty years of my life living both in Tehran and New York, striving to fit and blend into whatever culture I happened to occupy at a given moment. I whined about this, wishing I was one thing or another. But after the 1979 Islamic Revolution erupted and my family was permanently exiled, I learned the true meaning of being careful about what you wish for. To connect with my lost Persian heritage, I began to write about it, and to write about living in the diaspora. It’s how I make sense of the world.  

Susanne's book list on strong Iranian women

Susanne Pari Why did Susanne love this book?

Five Iranian women of very different backgrounds come together in a lush Persian garden outside Tehran. We learn their stories, their dreams, their hopes. The central theme is as the title suggests: what would a world without men be like? How would life away from the narrow gender-defined roles of an oppressive patriarchal system work? If you like magical realism, there is plenty here, and it’s beautifully rendered. Because of her writing, the author spent many years in prison under the Islamic Republic. Yet she never stopped writing. I think she should be considered for the Nobel Prize in literature. This novel was also made into a film.

By Shahrnush Parsipur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women Without Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From an outspoken Iranian author comes a “charming, powerful novella” that is banned in Iran for its depiction of female freedom (Publishers Weekly).
 
“Parsipur is a courageous, talented woman, and above all, a great writer.” —Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis
 
This modern literary masterpiece follows the interwoven destinies of five women—including a wealthy middle-aged housewife, a prostitute, and a schoolteacher—as they arrive by different paths to live together in an abundant garden on the outskirts of Tehran. Drawing on elements of Islamic mysticism and recent Iranian history, this unforgettable novel depicts women escaping the narrow confines of family and society,…


Book cover of Breasts and Eggs

Michael Grothaus Author Of Beautiful Shining People

From my list on reads set in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, and my new novel, Beautiful Shining People, is a direct result of two profound experiences I had there. The first was when I was hiking through the hills of Kyoto late one night and turned around to see a glowing creature–some have said they think I saw a kami. The second experience happened when I was in Hiroshima at the Peace Park. I immediately started crying, seeing all the schoolchildren learning about the horrible atrocity committed against their ancestors. I have no idea why it affected me so much, but it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Michael's book list on reads set in Japan

Michael Grothaus Why did Michael love this book?

Where do I start? Breasts and Eggs is a fantastic example of contemporary Japanese literature.

The main character comes from a broken family that saw her mother die early. She feels that she is getting older and that if she is to ever have children she must act soon. But that’s only one small facet of this richly-drawn protagonist.

The novel also takes some great shots at the publishing industry, which, as a novelist, I found quite enjoyable. But most interesting is the history of this book. Kawakami originally wrote the first part as a novella, which was published in 2008.

Breasts and Eggs, published in 2019, saw her rewriting that novella and adding a second part to continue the story. If I have a favorite contemporary Japanese writer, it’s Mieko Kawakami.

By Mieko Kawakami, Sam Bett (translator), David Boyd (translator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Breasts and Eggs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A BEST BOOK OF 2020
TIME Magazine・The Atlantic・Book Riot・Electric Literature・The New York Times (Notable Book of the Year)

The story of three women by a writer hailed by Haruki Murakami as Japan’s most important contemporary novelist, WINNER OF THE AKUTAGAWA PRIZE.

On a sweltering summer day, Makiko travels from Osaka to Tokyo, where her sister Natsu lives. She is in the company of her daughter, Midoriko, who has lately grown silent, finding herself unable to voice the vague yet overwhelming pressures associated with adolescence. The story of these three women reunited in a working-class neighborhood of Tokyo is told through…


Book cover of Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, 1965-2000

Catori Sarmiento Author Of When We Were Flowers

From my list on diversity in womanhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in the interconnected lives of women and of womanhood. I find that it's also important to acknowledge the diversity in women’s experiences in all cultures and points in history. My first academic essay, which was published, was “Reevaluating of the Role of Women in Beowulf” which, in my youth, helped to not only flesh out the historical and contemporary roles women or persons who identify as women have had but also to begin to understand what that means to myself and to those around me. Since then, when writing about women in my numerous stories and novels, I focus on how she exists within her world and how she defines herself.

Catori's book list on diversity in womanhood

Catori Sarmiento Why did Catori love this book?

Alice Walker is one of my constant and favorite authors and I find myself re-reading her works often. I was fortunate enough to be part of a discussion of this book with Alice Walker present and was in awe of how forthright she was. Gathering Blossoms Under Fire is a collection of her journals that shared such intimate moments from her life.

By Alice Walker, Valerie Boyd (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gathering Blossoms Under Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'These journals are a revelation, a road map and a gift to us all' TAYARI JONES, author of An American Marriage

From the acclaimed author Alice Walker - winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize - comes an unprecedented compilation of four decades' worth of journals that draw an intimate portrait of her development as an artist, intellectual and human rights activist.

In Gathering Blossoms Under Fire, Walker offers a passionate, intimate record of her intellectual, artistic and political development. She also intimately explores - in real time - her thoughts and feelings as a woman, a…


Book cover of Daughters of Smoke and Fire

Alesa Lightbourne Author Of The Kurdish Bike

From my list on the Kurds and their world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like the main character in my book, I went to Kurdish Iraq as a well-meaning (but admittedly naive) teacher, and fell in love with the Kurdish people and their culture. To be more specific, it was village women I really bonded with. Listening to their stories, and watching them try to cope with so many practical restrictions, tore at my heart. Part of me wanted to “liberate” them from the seemingly outdated traditions that held them back. Simultaneously, I couldn’t help but envy them for the solaces their tight community offered them -- and which Western society denied me. Rather than claiming to be an expert on Kurds, I am now someone who studies them with the greatest respect. The humble Kurdish villagers gave me moral examples that I wish every Westerner could be fortunate enough to have.

Alesa's book list on the Kurds and their world

Alesa Lightbourne Why did Alesa love this book?

I have immense admiration for Ava Homa, the first female Iranian Kurd to publish in English. Her novel is part political expose, part history, and part feminist coming-of-age story, all wrapped up in a nail-biter of an adventure. The narrator is a woman, adding unexpected plot twists. Given the repression faced by Kurds in Iran, and the wall of silence maintained by the regime, Homa’s book is an important and courageous plea to the world for empathy and action -- plus it’s a downright riveting read.

By Ava Homa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Daughters of Smoke and Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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 primarily in Iran, this extraordinary debut novel weaves 50 years of modern Kurdish history through a story of a family facing oppression and injustices all too familiar to the Kurds. Leila dreams of making films to bring the suppressed stories of her people onto the global stage, but obstacles keep piling up. Her younger brother, Chia, influenced by their father's past torture, imprisonment, and his deep-seated desire for justice, begins to…


Book cover of The Colonel

Eric Lob Author Of Iran's Reconstruction Jihad: Rural Development and Regime Consolidation after 1979

From my list on Iranian history, politics, and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of politics and international relations with a focus on Iran. My passion for the country started while studying Persian or Farsi with an exceptional professor in graduate school. During that time, I had the privilege of traveling to Iran three times to study the language and conduct research on rural politics. This period coincided with the Green Movement uprising, a pivotal moment in the country. Since then, I have been enthralled by Iranian history, politics, and culture. Their richness and complexity make it a subject that can be studied and appreciated for a lifetime.              

Eric's book list on Iranian history, politics, and culture

Eric Lob Why did Eric love this book?

This novel was banned in Iran and published outside of it by a renowned Iranian author who grew up in a village and moved to Tehran, where he became a prominent writer and political prisoner. It lends a surreal and personal perspective to the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War – the two most dramatic and formative events in the Islamic Republic’s forty-year existence. It tells the haunting and heart-wrenching story of an unnamed and disgraced former army colonel, who futilely tries to keep his mind intact and his family together during this tumultuous period. The novel poignantly demonstrates how the revolution and war tore individuals and their loved ones apart to the point of madness and death. It is a microcosm of the deep-seated dissonance and disillusionment that Iranians have experienced over aspirational nationalism and piety, on one side, and endemic fragmentation and repression, on the other. A difficult…

By Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Tom Patterdale (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Colonel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2013 Jan Michalski Prize
Longlististed for the Man Asian Literary Prize

A new novel by the master of Iranian letters that directly engages politics in Iran today
 
Ten years in the writing, this fearless novel—so powerful it’s banned in Iran—tells the stirring story of a tortured people forced to live under successive oppressive regimes.
 
It begins on a pitch black, rainy night, when there’s a knock on the Colonel’s door. Two policemen have come to summon him to collect the tortured body of his youngest daughter. The Islamic Revolution is devouring its own children. Set over the…


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