#59 ~ Gardens of Water

February 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, LibraryThing, Religion, Sexual Identity | 9 Comments
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Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew

Gardens of Water tells the story of how the lives of a working class, conservative Muslim family from outside of Istanbul were impacted by the horrible earthquake of 1999. Sinan Basioglu, a hard-working man with a club foot, tries to do his best by his family and keep close to his God. Circumstances force them to take shelter in a relief camp established by Christian Americans. This time spent at the camp is most especially confusing to İrem, Sinan and Nilüfer’s 15-year-old daughter. Living in the camp provides her with a freedom she hasn’t known since her early childhood. When she falls in love with Dylan, the teenage son of an American expatriate teacher, the entire Basioglu family is caused to question who they are and what is expected from them.

It’s interesting to me how there are times when two or three books I read in a row carry a similar thread. Gardens of Water, although it takes place in the Middle East, continued my thoughts on the plight of women in society. In The Tea Rose, Fiona struggled against the prevailing prejudice that women are not capable to and should not run businesses. The female characters in The Witch’s Trinity were accused of witchcraft when life became hard because of the Judeo-Christian prejudices against them that began with Eve’s first bite of that apple in the Garden of Eden. For a Muslim girl like İrem, a simple school girl crush could threaten to ruin her family name and negatively impact her younger brother’s future. For many women, life is not all that more safe today than it was back in the time of the witch trials.

Alan Drew’s debut novel is rich in its details about life in Turkey and about what it feels like and means to be Muslim. I found this especially true in his descriptions of the scenery. I felt like I saw Istanbul from a distance and could feel the water over my toes. The scene where Sinan was carrying televisions on his back as he tried to hustle through the streets of Instanbul was probably my favorite. Not only did I feel Sinan’s desperation, I felt his isolation as a Kurd in Turkish society. If you are interested in Kurdish culture, the family life of modern conservative Muslims, or are just looking for an involving book to read, I strongly suggest Gardens of Water.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#23 ~ I Am Charlotte Simmons

May 18, 2007 at 6:31 pm | Posted in Books, College Life, LIfe, Post-Partum Depression, Reading | Leave a comment
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I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

Have you ever read a book like mad just to get the darn thing over with? That’s what I’m doing right now. It’s not that I Am Charlotte Simmons is a bad book. It’s not. Tom Wolfe is a wonderful author. Reading this book is like getting a second hand look at the thought processes I had when I was in the midst of the worst two years of my life suffering from PPD. Charlotte’s situation and neurosis are very different from mine, but it all stems from “perfection anxiety” that is entirely focused on the body. I recognized this pretty quickly after the first time I found myself yelling inside my head, “If she thinks about that again I’m going to throw this book against the wall.” If Tom Wolfe were to write a novel about me, Charlotte would do the same thing. “Get over it already!”

While I’m determined to finish every book I start this year, it is tempting to skip over some of those page and a half long paragraphs. I just can’t wait to finish this book. It’s painful to get such a close-up look at how crazy things were in my head while I thought I was thinking and reacting in a perfectly rational way.

Tom Wolfe accurately paints a portrait of someone whose unrealistic expectations for herself and her body morph into a deep depression and anxiety when experiences related to those expectations head south. That isn’t all that is included in this book. It’s a pretty interesting look at modern college life. I Am Charlotte Simmons is different from anything I’ve read thus far. I don’t regret reading the book, but I’ll be very happy when Charlotte and my experiences with PPD are put someplace on a shelf and get lost in the dust.

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