"OFFICIAL" BIOGRAPHY: Jasmin Darznik is the New York Times bestselling author of three books, including The Bohemians, a novel that imagines the friendship between photographer Dorothea Lange and her Chinese American assistant in 1920s San Francisco. A New York Times Book Review summer 2021 recommendation, The Bohemians is also one of Oprah Daily's best books of historical fiction for 2021.

Darznik's 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 eighteen countries and her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, among others.

She 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. She is an associate professor and chair of the MFA Program in Writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Her fourth book, a novel set in Old Hollywood, is forthcoming from Ballantine.

Hello there! I'm Jasmin Darznik, a novelist, memoirist, and professor.

About Me

Hi, I'm jasmin!

Isabel Allende, Paula McClain, Sarah Waters

on my shelf

Sinatra, Elvis, Chris Isaak

music loves

Bookstores, vintage shops, nurseries


West Marin, California

happy place

The 1920s, of course!

Favorite ERA

Your at-a-glance guide to where I stand on all the truly important things.

My Books

My Loves

Stories create spaces to remember and to dream. They show us who we've been, who we are, and what we can still become.


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.

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 a 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.

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.

My Story

Want to know how I started writing?

Books were my lifeline.

Hold up! I thought.

That's what got me started-
and what keeps me going to this day.

Hold up! I thought.




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Engagement Portraits


Experience / Investment




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Experience / Investment


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There comes a point when the secrets you've kept hidden, or that have been kept from you, become the stories you must tell. My writing stems from my experience as an immigrant, woman of color, and life-long student of  women's stories. In my process, I comb through the archives, drawing on my imagination to illuminate the past and reveal the ingenuity and resilience of women throughout history.


“Write what should not be forgotten.”

I can't imagine life without books. I always have at least two or three going at the same time. 


i love to get lost in:

Secrets and silences can guide us to truer stories about the past.


i'm fascinated by:

I'm always up for a ramble through the woods or a drive along the coast.


my happy place is:

In the "cool grey city of love," every street tells a story.

San Francisco

my favorite city is:

What's more fortifying than the love of your women friends?


i'm so grateful for:

Exploring the splendors of visual art sparks my imagination.


i'll never get tired of:

and I often wonder if I would have become a writer without that experience. There's something about immigration that's taught me to be "first-class noticer," which was Saul Bellow's requirement for a writer. Because I always feel a little (or more) outside of things, people, places, and languages hold a wonderful strangeness for me. Writing is where I try to make sense of all that.

watch me tell my story of coming to America

I came to America as a child,


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A Guide to Bohemian San Francisco

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A Guide to Bohemian
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