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The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
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The Bastard of Istanbul (edition 2007)

by Elif Shafak

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952389,119 (3.62)69
Member:juliehop
Title:The Bastard of Istanbul
Authors:Elif Shafak
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (UK) (2007), Edition: Open market e., Paperback, 360 pages
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The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Şafak

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  1. 00
    Het sprookje van de laatste gedachte by Edgar Hilsenrath (gust)
    gust: Ook een boek over de Armeense genocide
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The mordant gap between the children of those who managed to stay and the children of those who had to leave.

If there's one story the media in the United States should be having conniptions over right now, it's that of Mike Brown. Not Ebola, not Ukraine, not even Robin Williams, for if that man was half of the good things I've heard since depression killed him, he wouldn't want the tears of those who believe yet another black person deserved to die at the hands of white law enforcement. There's no nation quite like the US when it comes to handling the genocide card; it makes for a much messier state of things than this book's portrayal of the cosmopolitan memory of the Armenian genocide committed by the Turkish, but the indoctrination is there, the view of abroad versus the focus of at home is there, and the compromise, oh, the compromise. The compromise is there, with no answers to tuck you in at night.

The word 'genocide' hadn't existed in concrete fullness on April 24, 1915, much as there is no singular term for what Wikipedia calls "government neglect, unfavorable social policies, high poverty rates, changes implemented in the criminal justice system and laws, and...extremely high incarceration rates" within its 'Social issues' section of the 'Post-Civil Rights Era in African-American history'. Words, words, words, all of which imply a both sides to the story and refuse to even touch upon the body count or the unwillingness of drivers in Portland, Oregon, to stop for black pedestrians in crosswalks with no traffic lights, twice as likely to keep on going and make them wait of fear for their lives. I don't invoke this as a metaphor for the relations of Armenians and Turkish people in this day and age, but as a personal reminder of the latest link in a history of oppression in my own country. Şafak doesn't solve the issues faced by oppressors and oppressed; she starts a conversation, and within my own means, I will follow.

Am I responsible for my father's crime? A Girl Named Turk asked.
You are responsible for recognizing your father's crime, Anti-Khavurma replied.


I will admit, I wish she had gone further, rather than bring forward another age old incarnation of patriarchal violation that I am far more comfortable in my stance towards. I wish she had continued her wonderfully modern take on American-centric stereotypes, her portrayal of today's Istanbul with all its novelties all the more intriguing for their familiarity and feminism, her discussions of existentialism and Eastern European literature that never felt the need to wrap themselves in esoteric pomposity. I wish she had continued that Internet chat quoted above, just one example of the many I have had online regarding oppression, social justice, what I as a white inheritor of protection what must do with such skin-deep privilege. Futile wishes, for her heritage is not mine, and yet how wonderful it is to encounter a modern author refusing to be silent, taking on the technological inundation in a world founded on millenia of might makes right.

"I admire philosophy," Asya conceded. "But that doesn't necessarily mean I agree with the philosophers."

I have hope for contemporary literature, and indeed the literature for the future, because of books such as these. Pretty prose has its perks, but I'll chose an unflinchingly progressive state of story over dehumanizing jargon any day. ( )
  Korrick | Aug 29, 2014 |
The best books have a balance between language and story, between atmosphere and plot. This one came down a little too much on the side of language/atmosphere for me, for a book that's about "...a secret connection linking (two families) to a violent event in the history of their homeland." I kept thinking, "yes, yes, it's all beautiful/poignant/horrifying, but let's get on with it!" The secret is revealed on page 353 of 357, for those keeping score at home.

The title refers to Asya, the daughter in a house full of women--her mother, her three aunts, and her grandmother. But this isn't really Asya's story. It's not really the story of anyone in that house, either. It's the story of [spoiler]her great-grandmother[/spoiler]Shushan, an elderly Armenian woman living in San Francisco, but you don't know that until the last two pages, and we never get to hear Shusan's own voice tell her story! In the meantime, the book skips forward and backward in time from Istanbul to San Francisco to Arizona in showing the consequences of Shusan's life and choices, down to the most recent generations.

The book's main strength, besides the language, is illustrating the history between Armenia and Turkey, a subject I'm grateful to learn more about, as well as the cultural aspects of both. Very well done.

The other main weakness concerns a way-too-overused trope [spoiler]the rape of a character to drive the plot [/spoiler]. It's unbelievably lazy, especially when used by a woman! The fact that it also involves [spoiler]incest [/spoiler] makes it even worse, although I do understand why Shafak chose that scenario.

I'd recommend this book for people interested in Armenian and/or Turkish history, and students of literary fiction. ( )
  Pat_F. | Aug 4, 2014 |
I picked this book up at the library when I was in a huge rush just looking for something to read; I had no knowledge about the author or the book before. What a wonderful surprise. This is a tremendous story of family, culture, history, political conflict, and intense personal secrets and consequences.

I feel the book is extremely readable (some have commented on what they called an awkward prose style). I especially enjoyed the descriptions of Istanbul in the chapter "Dried Apricots". The book is filled with sadness, yet it has many touches of humor. Logically, the intertwining of the two families may be a stretch, but emotionally it works.

The story may be about the Turkish people and the Armenians; however, it says so much more about the influence of past events on individuals and on entire nations. One can never escape the past even if there is no direct knowledge of it. The book is interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

Highly recommended. Another title set it an entirely different setting but with the similar stuggles, check out Mister Pipand The Septembers of Shiraz ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
An intriguing novel by a Turkish woman about Turks and Armenians, about forgetting and remembering.

Shafak’s writing is delightful and unique. This story of hers has a fairy tale quality, just like the tales one of its characters tells. The people in it are very interesting, but hardly realistic, and the plot depends just a bit too much on coincidence. Except for the male and female djinns that accompany one of the women, this tale is not fantasy, but it is fanciful. Such things hardly matter, however because Shafak tells her story so well. She has a light touch and a wry humor which soften her sometimes less than positive accounts of her characters.

Two families’ stories are at the center of this novel, but these are not the stereotypical nuclear families. One is a Turkish family that lives in Istanbul and contains a grandmother, mother and four sisters, each of them strong eccentric women. Men mysteriously die young in the family. The youngest daughter bears a daughter with no father in sight. In the time of the novel, the daughter, Asya is 19. The sisters’ only brother has gone to America where he marries a divorced woman with a young daughter, Arminius. He hasn’t been seen by his family back in Istanbul for 20 years. His wife’s ex-husband is part of a family of strong Armenian women who insist on being a part of this stepdaughter’s upbringing. When she is 19, she goes to Istanbul to recapture her Armenian heritage and stays with her stepfather’s Turkish family. Asya and Arminius become good friends, but slowly old secrets refuse to stay hidden.

Read more on my blog, Me, you and books: http://wp.me/p24OK2-Sk
  mdbrady | Aug 12, 2013 |
I read about 94 pages, and while it was okay, I didn't find myself caring if I found out how it all unfolded. Decided to apply the nancy pearl rule of stopping if not enjoying after 50 pages. ( )
  mawls | Apr 4, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Once there was; once there wasn´t.
God´s creatures were as plentiful as grains
And talking too much was a sin...

- The preamble to a Turkish tale 
     ... and to an Armanian tale
Dedication
To Eyup and Behrazat Zelda
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143112716, Paperback)

Populated with vibrant characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is the story of two families, one Turkish and one Armenian American, and their struggle to forge their unique identities against the backdrop of Turkey's violent history. Filled with humor and understanding, this exuberant, dramatic novel is about memory and forgetting, about the tension between the need to examine the past and the desire to erase it.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:42 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Turkish teen Asya is coming of age under the wing of her tattoo-parlor owner mother and her three aunts, befriending a cousin from America, and discovering a secret that links her family to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres.

(summary from another edition)

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