Summary and book reviews of Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa

Daughters of Smoke and Fire

A Novel

by Ava Homa

Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa X
Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2020, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2021, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

AVA HOMA
Daughters of Smoke and Fire, starting page 48

"How would it happen when you were in prison?" Chia pressed his luck.

"At midnight," he said, "they would call names. We were eighty inmates in one wing— sometimes more, sometimes less. Anyone whose name was called after the sun went down never came back."

I pricked up my ears from my invisible post. Baba's gaze remained on the flowers woven into the rug, his expression neutral, reminiscent. "We would listen for and count the gunshots right before sunrise, and with a fork, we'd engrave the date and the estimated number of people executed on the walls of our cells."

I steadied myself on the doorframe. My brother sat rigidly.

Baba continued stoically. "Every time that loudspeaker crackled, every time a guard turned it on and blew into it, every time someone whose name started with A was called ..." He stopped and glanced at Chia, through Chia, as if Chia weren't there. "The ones who were called had only a moment to give their...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Traveling through books is a rewarding experience — inexpensive, convenient, and heart-opening. Daughters of Smoke and Fire takes you to Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, and Canada. How was your experience following characters across the globe?
  2. Readers often like to see what they have in common with people in various parts of the world. Did you see parts of yourself reflected back to you in Daughters of Smoke and Fire? What were they? Did you relate to one character more than others? Who were they and what made that character most relatable?
  3. Daughters of Smoke and Fire opens a window into the challenging lives of a stateless people who have been robbed of their right to live, or to live in peace. It's a difficult novel to write and ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about Daughters of Smoke and Fire.
You can see the full discussion here.


Are there specific people to whom you'd recommend this book? Who would enjoy reading it, and who should read it?
The entire book should be flagged with trigger warnings for readers who cannot tolerate despondency, war tactics, suicidal thoughts and actions, and/or explicit descriptions of physical violence. However, readers should also be prepared to fully... - julib

Coming of age in an authoritarian society
I agree with the previous statements. I cannot even image living under the restrictions put upon girls and women. Hours they were allowed to use the library, being seen alone, being considered a temptation to men so they must be completed covered. ... - reene

Daughters of Smoke and Fire is a difficult novel to write and to read. Why is it important for us to read untold stories? What did you gain from reading this novel in particular?
This book gave a clear picture of the more recent history of the Kurds and what it is like to be a Kurdish refugee. It was an important insight into the struggles, discriminations and desires of the Kurdish people. I gained a good bit of knowledge ... - lynneb

Daughters of Smoke and Fire takes you to Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, and Canada. How was your experience following characters across the globe?
Love the experience of learning about different locations through reading; in particular areas of our world that might prove unsafe to visit or otherwise out-of-budget for travel, etc. Important lesson in life to expand thinking to include ... - julib

Did you agree with Karo's decision not to tell Leila the whole truth about the incident with Chia until much later? What about Leila's frequent dishonesty with her parents? Are times in which lying is necessary?
It did seem that hiding the truth was a common theme in this culture and time. The situation that Karo and Leila and Shiler and Joanna and all found themselves in required some lies at times to preserve life and dignity for themselves and to spare ... - lynneb

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Through her characters, Homa gives voice to the struggles of a people who have been without a state since their territory was divided in the 17th century. This work is urgent and necessary. It is a story of resistance, but beyond that, it's the story of the power of the creative spirit to rise above oppression and endure. It's a story of the power of love and hope...continued

Full Review (693 words).

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(Reviewed by Naomi Benaron).

Media Reviews

Seattle Post Intelligencer
While this book about a Kurdish family in Iran, the story could be about any minority living under the rule of an oppressive majority demanding their assimilation. Homa has created a story that's both personal and universal in its scope. Daughters of Smoke and Fire might break your heart, but its also a book of sublime beauty that will engrave itself into your memory for years to come.

BookPage
Stark and elucidating...Through the courageous character of Leila, Homa paints a picture of many Kurdish women who have struggled against persecution and misogyny...Homa’s remarkable novel serves as a potent and illuminating window into the persecution of the Kurds.

San Francisco Chronicle
Ava Homa’s Daughters of Smoke and Fire is a heart-wrenching narrative about how oppression, political persecution and racism slowly destroy a Kurdish family. Full of powerful writing and crushing violence that reflects the reality Kurds face every day, this novel is also a literary event that merits attention: It’s the first to be published in English by a female Kurdish writer...Daughters of Smoke and Fire is a superb narrative that marks the arrival of a new voice in contemporary fiction.

The Independent (UK)
A blisteringly powerful tale of standing up to oppression and terror ... [a] haunting novel.

Booklist
A coming-of-age story that layers intergenerational trauma and political commentary on a decades-long epic... . Homa's portrait of Kurdish life in Iran brings readers closer to lived experiences that force questions of identity, homeland, and the traumas we inherit.

Author Blurb Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith, author of The End of Iraq
At a time when the Kurds are so much in the news in Iraq and Syria, the Iranian government has erected a wall of silence around its own much larger Kurdish population. This magnificent novel penetrates that wall with its story of coming of age, oppression, and death. Beautifully written, it is the best new work of fiction to emerge from the Near East in a long time.

Author Blurb Joy Kogawa
There is no more urgent a task for humanity than more fully knowing one another...This desperate gift is what comes our way from Ava Homa, a brave and brilliant storyteller, the first female Kurdish novelist writing in English who shows us, through one family's story, the stakes faced by the Kurds. Read this book. Raise your voice. We can no longer afford the 'us and them' mentality if we are to survive.

Author Blurb Kevin McKiernan, author and award-winning documentary filmmaker of Good Kurds, Bad Kurds
Gripping...Daughters of Smoke and Fire is a haunting piece of political fiction and a gut-punch tale of an alienated Kurdish girl swimming upstream against a tide of sexism and ethnic hatred. The scars Homa bears as a Kurdish feminist reared under Iranian rule and living now in the 'cruelty of exile' are evident on every page.

Reader Reviews

Christine Clapp

To the Author: Objective Achieved
Beautiful, painful book. I knew nothing of the history of the Kurds. I heard you Ava Homa. You have made one more human aware, which was your objective - I will share this book with others to spread the knowledge. My words sound so inconsequential ...   Read More
Juli B.

Powerful, emotional story of survival.
One of my greatest challenges writing this review is how to convey the gratitude I feel for the skillful bravery author Ava Homa must have felt bringing the brutally tragic, yet hopeful story of the Saman family to print. The ability to dissect and ...   Read More
Juliana

A razor-sharp voice
With a razor-sharp voice and incisiveness, Ava Homa tells the story of Leila, a Kurdish girl who grows up in and then flees Mariwan, a small, impoverished place in Kurdish Iran. Her world is constrained to gravitate around her family and especially ...   Read More
CLAIRE M

COMING OF AGE UNDER DURESS
Leila and her brother Chia are on their own from young age despite living with their parents. The preoccupations of daily oppression of society force each family member to preserve their own survival his family. As a child Leila learns the rules of ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Kurdish Women Fight for Freedom

Peshmerga fighters standing in formationKurdistan is a mountainous region that includes parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia. The Kurds' territory was first partitioned between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires in the 17th century. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne at the end of World War I divided the region into its current configuration. Despite its geographic size and a population of between 25 and 35 million Kurds, Kurdistan has never achieved statehood, and all efforts to establish independence have been met with brutal repression. Today, in Iraq and Syria, the Kurds have autonomously governed regions. In Armenia, the Kurds are granted a representative seat in parliament. In Turkey and Iran, where armed struggle for independence continues, Kurdish resistance groups are ...

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