Meet Özge with her messy orange hair and striped shirt. She has a sister, Pelin. Mum and Dad. They live in Izmir, Turkey. Özge often follows her impulses. She challenges life. The book is laid out like an artist’s journal. Drawings scattered across the page. Some sketches some coloured or washed as though Samanci is piecing together short scenes from her life while developing the narrative of her life. Whole sections of the book are the history of Turkey and what it was like to grow up there in the 1980s. One TV channel. Only a few choices of items at the store. Ataturk talks to young Özge from his portrait.
This is an apparent memoir about heading off in the wrong direction. Not the direction your father, your teachers, your college professors and even your friends see for you. In fact, Özge disappoints herself, until finally she comes to where she is able to tell the story. Now she is the graphic novelist we are reading. But she began as a maths major, to be at as good a university as she can be at. But she struggles. Although her mother supports her she doesn’t help her find what she really wants to do in a world where everyone else providing at best resistance.
I don’t want to use that reviewer cliche that even if it dares to disappoint, it doesn’t. This is full of energetic drawing, use of colour and photos to liven up the mainly line drawn characters and scenes that are never boxed in by frames. A colour wash or less defines each cell of the story.
Learn about a culture where Christian and Moslem, devout and secular interact on a daily basis, not comfortably or easily, but nonetheless they coexist. You will learn something of Turkish history often through Özge’s admiration for Ataturk. Of how she and her family lived with one TV station–where Dallas was a viewing highlight.
Özge’s mother and sister, but a father who “liked hard work, order and discipline. These were the tools that helped him survive go to college, and become a teacher.” Özge asks her mother, “Why does he yell so much, doesn’t he love me?” Her mother answers her, “Your dad loves you. He never had a family. He is learning how to be a dad without having had one.”
The book ends, “I had to do what I loved to do even if it’s against the expectations of the people I love.” Özge says, “Come, let’s swim against the tide” and the multicoloured fish replies, “Do you dare to disappoint.”