Foreign teachers of English in Turkey quickly learn that many Turkish parents want their children to grow up to be either a doctor or an engineer. Those were the safest choices in earlier generations, and parents are occasionally reluctant to believe in the new expanded choices available in a booming Turkey. Children are expected to buckle down and achieve those goals whether they share the goals or not.
I met a lady who said ‘well my Dad wanted me to be an engineer, so I did that, but now I’ve opened up my own astrology business.’ Another person I met had become an event planner after initially becoming a ship designer to please his parents. With such dichotomy from initial plan to later career, it’s obvious children aren’t always encouraged to follow their hearts. A young student I knew contemplated college majors and yearned to study art history. ‘How could I ever get a job in art history in Turkey?’ she lamented, surrounded in Istanbul by the art history of three empires, ‘my parents wouldn’t consider it a safe investment.’
So you can imagine the enthusiasm of foreign educators teaching in Turkey when Özge Samancı came out with her charmingly-illustrated graphic novel ‘Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up In Turkey.’ In it she described growing up with these expectations, when all she really wanted to do was be the next Jacques Cousteau and draw comics.
Özge Samancı’s touching, delightful story and bravery can give courage to any person doing work that isn’t quite the right fit. Özge, now an assistant professor in the Radio/Television/Film Department at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, USA, says to hopeful dreamers everywhere: ‘Dare to Disappoint!’ Here’s the book trailer for her graphic novel, the first from Turkey published directly into English.
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux
Recommended for Middle School and Older
Buket Uzner is a prolific writer who has been on the bestseller lists for years in Turkey. As an environmental scientist, her book titles often reflect her interest in environment-related subjects. ‘The Sound of Fishsteps’ won the Yunus Nadi Novel Award about a young Turkish woman who is invited to a mysterious intellectual utopia. ‘Two Green Otters Their Mothers, Their Fathers, Their Lovers, and the Others’ sold over 1,000,000 copies for its examination of environmentalism and love in modern times.
Buket Uzner’s ‘Istanbullians,’ a lushly-illustrated graphic novel drawn and inked by Turkish artist Ayşe Nur Atasoy, celebrates the humans that one sees in the ‘environment’ of Istanbul. The heroine is returning to Istanbul after years of working abroad as a genetics professor and gets stuck in Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport during a blackout. During this trying experience, the characters that make Istanbul such a fascinating intersection of the world live through the blackout too: her Kurdish lover, Armenians, Jewish Türks, a fanatical nationalist, head-scarved Muslim women, and secular Türks. This book would be an worthy short introduction to Istanbul, her archetypes, and some of their possible motivations.
Publisher: Alfa Yayınları
Recommended for Late Teens and Older
‘Cairo: A Graphic Novel’ has an American author, G. Willow Wilson, well-known for her recent Ms. Marvel series of comics about a Pakistani-American superhero. G. Willow Wilson lived in Egypt in her early twenties.
Story alone, however, does not a graphic novel make. I want to share this title to celebrate the illustrations inked by Turkish artist M. K. Perker, who makes you feel like you are right in Cairo when you read the book. M. K. Perker has an extensive bibliography in editorial illustration and comics and has been nominated for the Eisner Award for his monthly series called ‘Air’ where he also partnered with G. Willow Wilson.
Recommended for Late Teens and Over
By Karen Van Drie