Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Girl from the Golden Horn

My friend Jen nominated a book I was unfamiliar with for our Istanbook feminist book club, and it became my biggest guilty pleasure read of the year. 

The Girl from the Golden Horn, by Kurban Said, is a novel relatively unknown to most. It had been published in the 1930s and translated from the German. Truly, there are about two reviews of it online. We didn't have to blow dust off our Kindles obviously to read it, but if this book is sitting in libraries somewhere, I suggest it isn't getting its due. That's a shame, as it has much cross-cultural discernment to share with today's reader.

Are there so many novels that feature young female Ottoman intellectuals? I haven't run across another. The protaganist in this book, despite living in Berlin as an exile from her failed Ottoman Empire, had kept her identity and way of thinking as an Eastern woman intact, no easy thing in decadent European society of Berlin and Austria. The book follows her as she pursues her destiny, with agency. 
is this the exact perfect spot
on Istanbul's Golden Horn
to hold our book discussion
of Kurban Said's book,
The Girl from the Golden Horn?
I think it will do, what do you think?

Who had the best view of the Golden Horn
on book discussion day?
Us or the sailboat?
What a magnificent expat experience!
We felt lucky to experience the setting, 
each other's company,
and the book all together.

Just as it would take a unique writer to portray both Ottoman society and Vienesse society so intimately in this book, we felt unique as readers reading a book we felt would be lost on, for example, most American readers back home. 

Jen had been posted to Vienna before she was posted to Istanbul, so you can imagine all of the insight she brought to this discussion from both societies. We had a great exchange of ideas. With three women from the West, and two from the East, there was a perfect number for a fascinating discussion. And here I will stop in my description -- so you get the same joy from the book as I did, knowing nothing about what would happen as I read.

Where is the female movie director from the East who will bring the heroine Asiadeh Anbara's story to the big screen? It's so cinematic!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Celebrating the City of Joy

My City of Joy movie posse,
Ladies from Global Minds and Istanbook book clubs
here in Istanbul

What a powerful evening last night was! Eight of us assembled for our film screening of The City of Joy, celebrating the work of the new Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Denis Mukwege. He cares for women in the Congo who are victims of sexual violence that has occurred in pursuit of mineral wealth for famous global corporations. Also featured in the film were Congolese humanitarian leader Christine Schuler Deschryver and fundraiser/playwright Eve Ensler.

The City of Joy Movie Documentary Trailer

One of the most meaningful things I have ever participated in as an activist was the inaugural year of Eve Ensler's #1BillionRising global event. Eve Ensler, a deeply-respected thought leader on the issue of sexual and domestic violence was asking the world to consider how different the culture of the globe could be if the estimated one billion women who have experienced sexual and domestic violence, did not experience the violence they had lived through. 

How would the spirit of those women be different? How well could women thrive with less trauma? How could that impact their families? Imagine one billion families around the globe headed by women whose spirit hadn't been clipped. Eve Ensler's efforts and thought leadership were just so moving. She has raised over $100 million dollars to support women recovering from violence around the globe through her plays, the most famous of which is the Vagina Monologues (another great experience I had in Istanbul - acting in my first play).

I remember the inaugural year of #1BillionRising, the journalists covering the story didn't talk to Eve in a studio in New York. Instead, they reached her in the Congo. I remember being so shocked that she would be that far away from the media when her big idea debuted. Watching this movie helped me understand why she was in the Congo. That was where she was needed the most.

This would be a tough film to watch alone at home on Netflix. I am proud of my fellow book club members for not turning away from this story. No solutions can be found without first facing the problem, right?

As I watched, I kept remembering childrens' television host, Mr. Rogers. He always said, 'in stressful events, always look for and lift up the helpers.' Why not hold a watch party of your own to lift up 'helper,' Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege, and spread the solidarity.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Americans, how well do you know your global neighbors?

Americans ladies
having lunch with legendary journalist
Suzy Hansen (second from right),
after her reading at PAWI,
the Professional American Women of Istanbul

This month I had the joy of interviewing legendary American journalist Suzy Hansen and reviewing her first book for Lale Magazine, the bimonthly-publication of the International Women of Istanbul. Suzy Hansen's book is called, 'Notes on a Foreign Country : An American Abroad in a Post-American World.'

American author James Baldwin asked, 'has American prosperity come at the expense of the American Negro?' Suzy Hansen, whose admiration and interest in James Baldwin inspired her to move to Turkey, extends the question. She asks, 'does American prosperity and identity come at the expense of the world?'

You can read my review here on pages 32-34 of the January/February issue. 'Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World' was chosen by the New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2017. Excerpts appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian.

Thank you to editor Monisha Kar for the opportunity. Thanks also to Monica Fritz, of Monica Fritz Photography, for the photos used in the story.
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