I was browsing the high school graphic novel section where I substitute, looking for something to read during a prep period, when I stumbled upon this. I had never heard of it before, but the entire section had some good stuff in it, so I picked it up. It looked cute and clever, so I started reading it. I didn’t expect to learn things!
This is a graphic memoir, taking place in the early ‘80s in Turkey. Özge is about 10 years older than me, so she was growing up around the same time as my older brothers. But wow, the difference in the experiences!
Growing up in America, we take so many things for granted. We have multiple options for goods and services, for example. In my area, class sizes are kept fairly small. We have many opportunities, even without special schools. Özge grew up without these things. She had one or two options for things like groceries, there was only one television channel, and her elementary class sizes were large. Opportunities came through elite schools, which students studied extremely hard for, often without results. (That seems similar to what happens in some areas of China, though.) Other things are similar. The students say a pledge every today, similar to American students with the “Pledge of Allegiance.” While the channels were limited, there were shows that everyone watched, like Popeye and Dallas. Özge tries very hard, but she’s not quite as good a student as her older sister. She also has dreams of becoming a scuba diver or an actress, which are not acceptable careers, only hobbies as far as her family is concerned.
When she gets to school, the issue of religion comes up. Özge is not Muslim, but many of her classmates and most of her countrymen are. Özge is one of only a few girls in her class, and Western practices and culture are not the norm. Özge grew up on the western coast of Turkey, whereas most of the conflicts were taking place in the eastern side of the country. She goes through her schooling, always trying to please other people and becoming miserable for it. She tries to compromise, but it doesn’t work. She eventually realizes that pleasing other people without taking care of her own needs is not good for anyone, and she decides to go on her own path. This provides a good lesson, and is a good choice for a school library. I only wish the book went a little further and went on to explore some of her successes in life.
The art style is doodly and casual, and there are other forms of media mixed in. There are buttons and foil and stamps and other materials that she used to create the pictures for the book. The story provides a good lesson and a look at what it was like growing up in Turkey in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
This fulfills the CBR11 Bingo square of “Own Voices”