Monday, December 30, 2013

A Year of Reading Turkey in 2013

Bir varmış, bir yokmuş....

I started playing with the idea of immersive reading when I first joined the Around the World in 52 Books group in GoodReads back in 2012.  Back then, the idea was that I would read a book and bake something from the same country every week.  That didn't happen exactly, I mean sometimes it did, but I didn't always get to both in the same week, and kept revisiting countries.  

Several people in that group were also in The World's Literature group, also in GoodReads, and I found my way into it in 2012 in time to readalong with quite a few of the picks for Japan.  This year, in 2013, the country picked was Turkey.  Sometimes I read along with the group, sometimes I set off on my own, and all told I read twenty books this year from, set in, or about Turkey. This post will be too long if I discuss all of them, so follow the link to gain access to my reviews.  I read seven books by actual Turkish authors, and while I wish that number was higher (because they definitely give a greater feel for Turkish thought!), it was very educational to read outsider perspectives of the country as well, through travel writing and through fiction.  The travel writing I read spans from 1716 to 2008. 

Turkish books read in 2013
Books I Read from Turkey in 2013

Not long after 2013 began, the academic library where I work started a subscription to Mango Languages, an amazing tool of language learning.  I poked around a few languages until I thought, oh hey, why not try Turkish?  I found it to be more accessible to learn than others, but I didn't get very far until being introduced to my first Turkish arkadaş, Neval.  She helped me with some of my pronunciation issues and explained how the grammar was working behind the scenes.  We met a few times over lunch during the summer because she was doing research on my campus.  I also met a few more Turkish people through her, and a few more through one of the other librarians.  There is apparently a Turkish table on my campus for academics planning to live in Turkey for research, but I sensed that my language skills were too limited to join them.  Maybe someday!  Still, I feel like I know enough Turkish now that I could have a very basic polite conversation, I could ask for directions and for items in a shop, and some basic food conversation.  At least I would know enough to try. 

Gulhanim brewing tea at the SC Dialogue Foundation Cooking Class

The final way I immersed in my Turkish adventure was in the cuisine.  I had attempted a few recipes on my own - several different types of börek, gözleme, and right now I have the ingredients for kunefe in my freezer! Sadly, Greenville has no Turkish restaurant, so I had nothing to compare what I was making to.  What we do have is the SC Dialogue Foundation, which among other things offers Turkish cooking classes!  Thanks to my colleague Laura, who pointed me in that direction, I attended two classes in the fall - one about ezogelin soup, and one about mosaic cake.  I plan to attend more in the spring.  Each class is more than a class - the women show the participants how to make one dish, and then they serve lunch with food they've prepared.  I have learned more about Turkish cuisine and culture in those 90-minute lunches than I ever would have expected.  If you are in the Upstate of South Carolina, I can't recommend them enough.  The foundation also has a wee grocery where you can buy Turkish ingredients, which are not easy to find in my area.  

Even though my book group is moving on to Iceland in 2014, quite a bit of my heart is still in Turkey.  I still have at least fifteen more books I know I want to read, and a lot more cooking to learn about.  I must have talked about Turkey a bit this year, because I got a Turkish coffee set for Christmas, which I have been nervous about trying, but tomorrow it will happen!  (Did you know that brides to be used to have to prove their coffee making skills to their future in-laws?  Oh the pressure!)

Here are the books I know I want to read.  If you have recommendations, I'd love to hear them.  Otherwise, I'll continue dreaming through my Turkey Pinterest board, my reading, and my growing knowledge of the language and cuisine.  Perhaps someday I'll get to visit!

Books on Turkey Still to Read

1 comment:

  1. Hi!
    I am a Turkish girl from Istanbul. I would like to reccomend you some books from Turkish authors. Check on his list on goodreads,

    Elif shafak is ok, but we have much more talented writers. Her books are only average in my opinion.
    If you are able to reach their English version, you would love Sabahattin Ali, Yusuf Atılgan, Oğuz Atay, Barış Bıçakçı, Murathan Mungan... Especially "Bir Süre Yere Paralel Gittikten Sonra" from Barış Bıçakçı is my personal favourite.

    Have a nice reading!


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