No Country for Young Women

The latest from Ava Homa

The Kurdish people have a long history of denied legitimacy, which has forced their authors to write in languages other than their own. Consider the writer and filmmaker Kae Bahar, who survived torture as a teenager and an attempt on his life by ISIS. After fleeing to England, he published Letters from a Kurd in 2015. Set in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the account (regarded by many as the first Kurdish novel in English) follows a young boy struggling with his non-traditional gender identity — in a country of brutal sexual repression. He finds escape through foreign films and by composing imaginary letters to his hero, the actor Clint Eastwood. Bahar’s text serves as a meaningful introduction to Ava Homa’s own debut, Daughters of Smoke and Fire, the first novel in English by a female Kurdish writer.

Unlike the much older Bahar, Homa was born in Iran. But like him, she writes in exile and in a foreign...