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The bastard of Istanbul
Elif Shafak
Adult Fiction SHAFAK

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In her second novel written in English (The Saint of Incipient Insanities was the first), Turkish novelist Shafak tackles Turkish national identity and the Armenian "question" in her signature style. In a novel that overflows with a kitchen sink's worth of zany characters, women are front and center: Asya Kazanci, an angst-ridden 19-year-old Istanbulite is the bastard of the title; her beautiful, rebellious mother, Zeliha (who intended to have an abortion), has raised Asya among three generations of complicated and colorful female relations (including religious clairvoyant Auntie Banu and bar-brawl widow, Auntie Cevriye). The Kazanci men either die young or take a permanent hike like Mustafa, Zeliha's beloved brother who immigrated to America years ago. Mustafa's Armenian-American stepdaughter, Armanoush, who grew up on her family's stories of the 1915 genocide, shows up in Istanbul looking for her roots and for vindication from her new Turkish family. The Kazanci women lament Armanoush's family's suffering, but have no sense of Turkish responsibility for it; Asya's boho cohorts insist there was no genocide at all. As the debate escalates, Mustafa arrives in Istanbul, and a long-hidden secret connecting the histories of the two families is revealed. Shafak was charged with "public denigration of Turkishness" when the novel was published in Turkey earlier this year (the charges were later dropped). She incorporates a political taboo into an entertaining and insightful ensemble novel, one that posits the universality of family, culture and coincidence. (Jan. 22) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Turkish author Shafak's second English-language novel (after The Saint of Incipient Insanities) asks a profound question: Is it possible for either nations or individuals to live solely in the present, ignoring everything that came before? Set in Istanbul, the book's action takes place mostly in a home shared by four generations of women: middle-aged sisters Banu, Feride, Gevriye, and Zehila Kazanci and their mother, grandmother, and teenaged daughter/niece, Asya. The household's live-and-let-live credo-no one, for example, has ever asked who fathered the "bastard" Asya-comes apart when Amanoush, the Armenian-American stepdaughter of the sisters' estranged brother, comes for a visit. The 1915 Turkish massacre and deportation of Armenians and the country's failure to confront its murderous past butts up against secrets that have fractured the Kazanci family for generations. Despite heavy themes, Shafak is often funny, and her weaving of recipes and folk tales into the text makes it both enlightening and entertaining. While this alone would recommend the novel, that Shafak was recently acquitted of the charge of "denigrating Turkishness" because of her frank look at Turkish-Armenian antipathy makes it essential reading. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/06.]-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Zeliha Kazanci
Youngest daughter; headstrong; has a child out of wedlock; refuses to name the father of her child; runs a tattoo parlor.

Age: 19
Zeliha's daughter; loves Johnny Cash and French existentialism; friends with intellectuals; hangs out at coffeehouses.

Banu Kazanci
Zeliha's sister; discovers herself as a clairvoyant.

Cevriye Kazanci
Zeliha and Banu's sister; teaches history in the high school.

Feride Kazanci
Zeliha, Banu and Cevriye's sister; obsessed with impending disasters.

Mustafa Kazanci
Brother to the Kazanci sisters; sent to America to avoid the family curse; married a woman with a daughter.

Armenian American
Mustafa's step-daughter; spends a lot of time with her Armenian father; searching for her identity; wants to learn about her family's history; becomes friends with Asya.

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