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Daughters of Smoke and Fire
A best Book of 2020
“A fiery, soul-nourishing debut novel"
"One of the 5 biggest books of May"
"A best new fiction"
"One of the best reads of 2020"
Author nominated for the Frank O'Connor International Prize
The unforgettable, haunting story of a young woman’s perilous fight for freedom and justice for her brother.
Set primarily 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.
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“A fiery, soul-nourishing debut novel . . . Daughters of Smoke and Fire is the relentless and tender story of a sister desperate to save her brother from execution, of children finding their way out from under the weight of their parents’ trauma, and of how oppression steals a woman’s agency twice.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“A blisteringly powerful tale of standing up to oppression and terror . . . [a] haunting novel.”
Daughters of Smoke and Fire "unfurls the history of an oppressed people fighting for their right to live, love, thrive, and create. . .Homa peels back layers of sorrow and injustice to reveal the resilience and hope of so many Kurds living in the stateless nation." —Chicago Review of Books
"The power of “Daughters of Smoke and Fire” lies in its unpredictability and absence of good-evil stereotypes. . . “Daughters of Smoke and Fire” is a gripping and enlightening read, and Ava Homa’s voice is one that needs to be heard." —Toronto Star
At once a feminist text, a story of survival in the face of adversity and an exploration of cruelty through the eyes of those who are powerless, “Daughters of Smoke and Fire” is a superb narrative that marks the arrival of a new voice in contemporary fiction. —San Francisco Chronicle
“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.” —BookPage
“A searing, heartrending tale. . . . While this book is 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 it’s also a book of sublime beauty that will engrave itself into your memory for years to come.”
"Homa is a talented storyteller, and her characters are vibrant and complex.... While the subject matter is vast and multifaceted, she deftly creates dialogue that is precise without seeming expositional and that always rings true as a reflection of her characters."
“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.”
What's truly remarkable about this book is how Homa not only personifies a people's suffering through one character, but also shows us how, piece by piece, the emotional and psychological trauma of living as a persecuted minority gradually destroys a person's confidence and spirit." —Qantara
“Daughters of Smoke and Fire not only provides us with a voice that we have been missing, but it serves as a great equalizer of humanity and is a call to action to expose the oppression, persecution, and prejudices that are still very much alive and neglected in today’s world of globalization.” —Prose for Peace
"Ava Homa is a professional author and writes the way a duck takes to water. Her debut novel, Daughters of Smoke and Fire deserves a prominent spot in your study for your leisure hours. Between its pages lies a story of Kurdistan. You can own it for the price of the book."
Read an excerpt on
“There is no more urgent a task for humanity than more fully knowing one another. In our time we are witnessing the betrayal of the Kurds. A betrayal that would not have happened if the world knew them as intimately as we know our own. This desperate gift is what comes our way from Ava Homa, a brave and brilliant story teller, the first female Kurdish novelist writing in English who shows us, through one family’s story, the stakes faced by 40 million stateless Kurds. Read this book. Raise your voice. We can no longer afford the ‘us and them’ mentality if we are to survive.”
"Daughters of Smoke and Fire is a riveting story of a family that unlocks our imagination to the struggle of being and living as Kurds. An absorbing fiction with social and political insights into Kurdish identity, politics, and women’s lives. The audacious character, Leila, is memorable for her struggle to survive and to stay free. Ava Homa in fiction echoes the real dreams and desires of Kurdish women for freedom."
—author of Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, Prof. Shahrzad Mojab
Ava Homa’s debut novel is like nothing I’ve read. Poetic and brave, lyrical and unflinching, it offers a powerful political exposé into the persecution of the Kurdish people, a triumphant tale of one woman’s fight for equality, independence, and social justice, and a soul-melting love story. Through the author’s deft and deeply human first-person narrative we also come to understand, viscerally, how it feels to live without freedom, and to face racism as a newcomer in a country that is not one’s own. In her book Homa asks: “Whose stories are heard? Whose lives are saved? Whose losses are mourned.” Daughters of Smoke and Fire is a story we need to hear. It will change the way we see the world, its lives saved and mourned, and one another.” – Carol Shaben, author of Into the Abyss
“Gripping...Cinematic... 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.”
—Kevin McKiernan, author and award-winning documentary filmmaker of Good Kurds, Bad Kurds
“Daughters of Smoke and Fire is a compelling narrative of consciousness and empowerment that skillfully intertwines the personal and political, joining a story of suffering and trauma with one of love and desire. The novel is striking and original in its refusal to romanticize life under oppression. It is a story of visible and invisible scarring, of violence and suffering transmitted across generations, of gender oppression and political exclusion and silencing, but it is also a moving and timely novel of hope and transformation, and of self-liberation.”
— author of Kurds and the State in Iran: The Making of Kurdish Identity, Professor Abbas Vali
“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.”
—Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith, author of The End of Iraq
Daughters of Smoke and Fire has been featured on:
The Globe and Mail: "Best new read" of the spring
Reader's Digest: The Best 14 Reads From the 2020 Quarantine Book Club
The Independent: One of the five "biggest books" of May
Critics on Echoes from the Other Land
"Ava Homa is Canada’s exquisite answer to Raymond Carver. Homa announces new beginnings—less irony, more hope—and from a breathtakingly multicultural and international perspective. Readers will experience awe and beauty at the force of Homa’s art to convey female Iranian protagonists wholeheartedly grasping their lives. A taut and subtle plain-spokenness enlivens her writing, belying rich dramatic tensions that build just beneath the surface—which will surprise readers and then captivate them."
--Louis Cabri, author of Posh Lust
"Fine stories, subtle and evocative, disturbing in their impact."
M G Vassanji, author of Nostalgia
“Subtle and powerful, haunting the reader with the silence between the words.”
—Carole Giangrande, author of The Tender Birds
"Ranging across regions, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and political dispositions, Homa’s characters give us a prismatic portrait of Iran that resists both internal tyrannies and Western demonization. Her style is elegantly spare, gem-solid. This is a voice we all need to hear."
Susan Holbrook, author of Throaty Wipes
“Homa uses very tight, descriptive prose that takes us right into the moment of the story. She describes sights, smells, textures and sounds, as well as emotions, disagreements and passions that cut deeply to the heart of knowing her characters from the inside. She does this with an almost painful honesty, a striking truth and vulnerability that cannot be dismissed or ignored.”
—Black Coffee Poet
Ava Homa is a critically-acclaimed novelist, journalist, and activist. DAUGHTERS OF SMOKE AND FIRE (May 2020) is her debut novel published by HarperCollins in Canada & the Overlook Press/ABRAMS in the US. Her collection of short stories ECHOES FROM THE OTHER LAND (Mawenzi, Toronto, 2010) was nominated for the 2011 Frank O’Connor Short Story Prize and secured a place among the ten winners of the 2011 CBC Reader’s Choice Contest, running concurrently with the Giller Prize. Homa is also the inaugural recipient of the PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-In-Exile Scholarship.
In different settings across North America and Europe, Homa has delivered speeches on writing as resistance, human rights, gender equality, Kurdish affairs, media literacy, and other topics. She holds a Master's Degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor in Canada, another in English Language and Literature from Tehran, Iran, and a diploma in editing from Toronto. A Writer-in-Residence at the Historic Joy Kogawa House, BC (2013), George Brown College, Toronto (2012), R. D. Lawrence Cultural Centre, Minden Hills (2011), and the Open Book Toronto and Ontario (2011), Homa has taught Creative Writing workshops to writers from diverse age ranges and backgrounds, judged writing contests and has served at the editorial board of the Write Magazine as well as the National Council of The Writers' Union of Canada.
Ava on The Global News
'Why Resistance is Foundational to Kurdish Literature?" Literary Hub
Due to the pandemic, all the in-person events were canceled
For the latest virtual events please see Facebook
Read an excerpt on
Readings and Interviews
Pandemic Response Reading Series:
Best of Women's Fiction:
Conversation with Ava Homa about
"Daughters of Smoke and Fire"
Feminism in 2020
Ava Homa and Behrouz Boochani
June Open Book Series hosted by
Maddie Margarita, Lit Up OC
Finding freedom and strength in an unpredictable world
SCWA HUMP DAY BOOK TOUR/AVA HOMA
Ava Homa answering your questions hosted by Phillip Kowalski
Thoughts from a page podcast, interview with Ava homa
New Novel Set In Iran Is The First Written In English By A Kurdish Woman
Ava Teaching on the Writer's Digest University: From Self to Universe: Building Character Relationships
Books, Awards & Honours
The inaugural recipient of PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-In-Exile Scholarship
Nominated for the 2011 Frank O’Conner Short Story Award: The World’s Largest Short Story Prize
Second Vice Chair of the National Council of The Writers’ Union of Canada 2015-2018
Jury for the 2016 Freedom to Read Award 2016
Writer-in-Residence at the Joy Kogawa Historic House, Vancouver, BC May-July 2013
PEN Lecturer-in-Residence at the George Brown College, Toronto, Sep 2012-March 2013
Writer-in-Residence at R.D. Lawrence, Minden Hill, Ontario Jan–Dec. 2012
"Graduation." Apt Magazine. July 2018.
“Nameless Stones.” Room Magazine. Summer 2018. Issue: 41.2. Toronto.
"Just Like Googoosh." Reorient. March 2013.
“A Rose for Raha,” (short story). Still (literary Art Book), Negative Press, London, September 2012.
“After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?” (short story). OffSIDE: January 2012: Windsor.
“Silent Conversation” (short story). The Toronto Quarterly. Issue #8, November 2011: Toronto.
“A River of Milk and Honey” (short story). Windsor Review. Fall 2010: Windsor.
Theatre Review: "End Days" "Oliver!" "Lend me a Tenor" "Flight" "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."
Literary Review of Canada: "A Long Way from Home" & "When Multiculturalism Fell Into the Sea"
Herizons: "Iranian Women &Hijab Law." "Beauty is Duty and Crime."
BookReview: Zadie Smith's "Swing Time."
"Do Not Say We Have Nothing" by Madeline Thien & more at Herizons.
Toronto Star: "Letter from Kurdish Exile" & "My Country, Iran"
Open Democracy: "Increasing Rhetoric on Women's Rights in Iran."
Rabble.ca: "The Women of Peshmerga"
Iran Human Rights Review: "From Self-Reign to Self-Immolation: Kurdish women's past and present."
PEN: "Echoes in Exile" ,"The Past is Another Country"
BBC Persian: "Women and Election" & "Women's movement in Iran."