- Fizzy Thoughts: Back on a reading binge

Back on a reading binge

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak

Asya Kazanci (that i shouldn't be dotted, but I have no idea how to type, let alone pronounce, an undotted Turkish i) is a confused young woman who lives with her family in Istanbul. Her mom, Zeliha, is the family rebel... she has never disclosed the identity of Asya's father and she owns a tattoo parlor. Her Auntie Banu is a devout clairvoyant, Auntie Feride a hypochondriac currently in her paranoid phase, Auntie Cevriye a prim teacher of national history, Grandma Gulsum a somewhat grim woman, and Petite-Ma her beloved great-grandmother. The lone male of the family, Mustafa, lives in Arizona.

Armanoush is Mustafa's step-daughter, an Armenian-American who alernately grew up within the close-knit Armaenian culture of her father's family, and listening to her mother's bitterness for all things Armenian (which partially explains her remarriage to a Turkish man).

In an attempt to connect with her Armenian heritage, Armanoush travels to Turkey to stay with the Kazanci family. What results is cultural awareness, personal awareness and the undigging of some family secrets. The author, Elif Shafak, was charged with "insulting Turkishness" in this book due to the discussions about Armenian genocide. The charges were later thrown out in court. I am always suprised that a country that is so modern in some ways is so paranoid about upholding "Turkishness."

I liked the book, more for the crazy characters and the Armenian history than anything else. However, Armanoush pretty much got left out at the end. She seems to have been forgotten in the grand finale, making me wonder what she does with her newfound knowledge of the family's past, and her increased awareness of how everyday Turks and Armenians can live together in harmony.

So it was a good, enjoyable read, but not necessarily a great one.

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In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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