Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Homecoming Media

How nice it was to see our New York tour finale interview with Elif Ozmenek in the 31 May issue of Turkey's Referans Gazetesi .

We were also referenced in Hurriyet newspaper by Mehmet Yilmaz on 29 May, who says he found some of our stories as funny as Turkey's master satirist Aziz Nesin! What a compliment!

Monday, May 29, 2006


Leaving on a Jet Plane

We were happy to make it to JFK Airport airport in one piece (or actually 10 pieces if luggage and handbags count separately), and even happier to meet Turkish Airlines employee Suna Serpin; we gave her our last copy of EH and asked her to share it with her colleagues. Suna said it was no coincidence that we came to her desk-- an avid reader, she was actively looking for her next book to read and said a positive book about Turkey landing in her hands that day was nothing short of "a gift from God".

Unfortunately, the glow of Suna's compliment was short-lived as the 11 hour flight home was punctuated by the wails some very unhappy toddlers. Thankfully only a few of the 13 babies and toddlers surrounding us were feeling distressed!

The sleepless, aggravating flight did make it all the more pleasant to return home to Istanbul, where the chatty Ataturk Airport passport control personnel quizzed Jennifer about her favorite Turkish foods. The customs controllers made us open every suitcase-- the first time we've experienced such a thing. Not that we had anything to hide, but Jennifer's technique of packing the dirty laundry on top quelled any deep searching into her gear while Anastasia skated by on her charm.

Before long we were out in the sunny, sweltering city...

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Brunch and Browsing

We enjoyed a leisurely Sunday brunch (orange brioche French toast, mmm!) at Marquet on lower Fifth Avenue with Anastasia’s former employer, literary agent Olga Wieser, near Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park – once the haunt of former literary resident Henry James, as well as film director Stanley Kubrick, who used to play chess in the park.

Moseying uptown to pack our bags, we stopped in at ABC Carpets, the Chelsea flea market emporium of bohemian chic home furnishings. After admiring the Suzani-upholstered chaise longues, (and deciding we could make our own back in Istanbul!) we met Halil Erdem, the Fenerbahce taraftar from Thracian Luleburguaz married to an American, and his carpet-selling Turkish colleagues Volkan and Aydin, from Kas.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mayfest's Finale

We attended the final event of MayFest-- A Mediterranean Journey: Cem Duruoz, Demetra George, and Richard Weiss, was a musical performance at the Merkin Concert Hall near the Juilliard School of Music and Lincoln Center, the home of the New York Ballet and Opera. We re-met some Turks who had attended our launch at the Turkish consulate in April!

Friday, May 26, 2006


Tribeca and Central Park

We enjoyed a French bistro lunch with media consultant Carrie Tuhy at The Odeon restaurant in trendy Tribeca, now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Daniel Libeskind, architectural theorist and master planner for the new World Trade Center development was at a nearby table.

Strolling past The Plaza Hotel on our way to Central Park, we spied a blue glass nazar bocugu hanging from a horse-drawn carriage, the kind of old-fashioned buggy lovers rent for trips through the massive urban garden designed in 1858 by Frederick Law Olmstead, the founder of landscape architecture. Sure enough, the carriage driver Ahmet was Turkish – although his horse Bunny was not! Ahmet said that several of his fellow Central Park carriage drivers are also Turkish…he took some EH postcards to disseminate to unsuspecting romantic tourists.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Expat Harem's US Tour Finale!

The day started off with publicity; GalleyCat, MediaBistro’s publishing world blog, posted its writeup of our North American tour.

With time short and many people to see, we split up for lunch. Anastasia headed uptown for a delicious vegetarian meal at Candle on East 79th Street with TV producer and author Lisa Lemole Oz, Anastasia’s college friend who is also married to a Turk – the cardiovascular surgeon Mehmet Oz. Jennifer met to brainstorm with Ozgun Tasdemir, a New York tour operator interested in creating a series of Expat Harem-branded tours to Turkey. Ozgun also interviewed Jennifer for the e-zine of Light Millennium, an organization serving as a multifacted portal for global creativity.

Finally, our tour finale – an appearance at MayFest, the annual Turkish arts and culture festival presented by the Moon & Stars Project. Our evening was co-presented by the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Formerly housing the grand B. Altman department store at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the CUNY Graduate Center sits in the shadow of the Empire State Building.

Before the event we were interviewed for radio and print by Elif Ozmenek, the North American director for Turkey's national daily newspaper Referans Gazetesi.

In front of an audience of 65, we were pleased to be joined by EH contributor Sally “From the Hip” Green, who was in town with her husband Varol and two children, on their way to Turkey for the first time in nine years! Sally also wrote another essay for our Turkish editions, entitled “Change of Continent, Change of Heart”, in which Sally’s teenage experience with a secular Turkish family convinced her to leave a fundamentalist Christian sect with which she had become involved. Sally will join us next month in Istanbul at an international conference for scholars of Anatolia’s mother goddess tradition: The Goddess Conversations.

The evening quickly became interactive as we fielded questions about Turkish politics, art, society and Mediterranean history – and other members of the audience pitched in with their own replies and opinions. There were still hands in the air and hot topics on the table when the moderator asked us to wrap up the discussion at the one hour mark. Downstairs food and books awaited!

During a reception catered by Volkan of Turkish Kitchen, we signed books and talked to the crowd. (Volkan forgot to invite his American wife Catherine, but bought her a book to make it up!) Among those we met were Moroccan-Turk Sabah Knani who just quit her job at United Nations to open a Turkish hamam in Paris, Hale Berk, Nancy Black, Brook Hobson (a writer who traveled to the event from Sarasota Springs in upstate New York), Rita Orkin-Akdeniz (a New Yorker married to a Turk who lives part of the year in Kusadasi), Filiz Bikmen (member of Turks Like Us, a social group for American-raised or -educated Turks who return to Turkey and find that their outlooks differ from those of their countrymen), our friend Cemil Ozyurt from Turk of America magazine, Dr. Nurper Ulkuer (a program officer at UNICEF), NYU graduate student in English Kristin Dickinson, art historian Annastacia Wollmering, Ezabel Razy, Nicole Goksel, Carly Hare (a 2007 Fellow in The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society's Emerging Leaders International Fellows Program at CUNY), Vanessa Larson (a former intern at Istanbul's U.S. consulate who is now writing a book about her time in the city), Hollis Wagenstein, Fatih Vursavas (an official at the United Nations’ department of Safety and Security who hails from Bostanci in Istanbul), Joyce Katherine Jones, Gulce Agirkaya and Gulcin Bal, Cheryl (a Briton who met her Turkish boyfriend in Arabic language classes), Duygu Onat (an immunologist at Ohio State University), and filmmaker Isil Bagdadi, president of distribution at Cavu Pictures in Manhattan. Tagi Sagafi-nejad, a professor of international business at Texas A&M International University (that’s in Laredo, Texas!) came up to tell us how eloquent and accurate he thought we were. When Jennifer told him that she knew him from somewhere, he quipped that he's a dead ringer for Dustin Hoffman... and Jennifer had to admit it was true!

Also present were Anastasia’s friends Japanese translator Senri Yusa, Clio-winning advertising copywriter Robin Pollak Reiser, Dow Jones business writer Aparna Mukherjee (BMC alum #41) and her husband Will Swarts IV, architectural designer Jack Baum of Tree House Designs, and Tom Vasatka who Anastasia hadn’t seen in almost 20 years! Also attending were Suzanne and David Manning. Suzanne had been a teacher at the theatre conservatory at Anadolu University in Eskisehir in 1992-1994, while her husband is director of media relations at CUNY’s Graduate Center as well as Anastasia’s fellow alumnus of writing coach Victoria Rowan’s professional workshops.

Thanks to Moon & Stars organizers Binnaz Saktanber and Kaan Nazli, and Mehmet, photographer and technician Cansu, and ushers Ayca and Zeynep Memecan (the author of Zeynep Amerika'yı Anlatıyor, a book that explains America to newly arrived Turks).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Transit Woes

Anastasia met for lunch with French Canadian pal Cristina Silveiro from United Nations French Radio. Cristina took a stack of EH postcards to pass out to her coworkers at the UN Secretariat building.

Lori Ann Krushefski, marketing director at New York public radio station WNYC, hosted us at a book club meeting at the Bryn Mawr Club of Northern New Jersey in the leafy town of Montclair. Lori Ann provided a sumptuous buffet of Lebanese food as we talked with 10 alumnae including Mimi Fogel, who has visited Turkey three times; Kathleen Milligan, who provided the music for the evening and whose family spent 5 years in Istanbul working for the General Electric corporation; and Marlies Drahouzal who likened Turkish family and friend networks with the one she enjoys in her own heavily Italian Northern NJ hometown. Surprise guest of the evening was Divya Srivastav, a long-lost classmate of Anastasia’s – they hadn’t seen each other in 15 years! Russian major Linda Henigin told us she lived in Moscow for several years and had the sense that Turkey was an impenetrable land, as if under a veil. She said: “Now reading Expat Harem I realize I could go there, and in fact want to go there! The writing is so vivid, the country so welcoming.”

Taking the NJ Transit train back to Manhattan from Montclair, we were lucky to be delayed only two hours on our return to the city – due to a massive power outage many train commuters along the Eastern Seaboard were stranded many, many hours on the trains the next day since Amtrak and NJ Transit locomotives were trapped in the tunnels around the island of Manhattan!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Visit to Greenwich Village

On the corner of 5th Avenue and 29th Street (Norman Vincent Peale Way) we were struck by a powerful display: the wrought iron fence surrounding Manhattan’s Marble Collegiate Church which was strewn with yellow, green, and blue ribbons tied to the railing, blowing in the breeze. On each yellow ribbon was attached the name, rank, and age of each US soldier who has died so far in the 3 years of the Iraq war. Each blue ribbon was a prayer for the 30,000 Iraqi citizens who have so far been decimated by this war, while each green ribbon was a prayer for peace.

The street bears Peale’s name as he pastored the Marble Collegiate Church for 52 years. Norman Vincent Peale is best known for his anti-dogmatic approach to religion as well as his most popular book, The Power of Positive Thinking, which has sold over 20 million copies.

At an event for the Bryn Mawr Club of New York City held at a residence in Greenwich Village decked in Turkish textiles, we met eleven more Bryn Mawr alumnae, including: long-time television producer Virginia Kassel, award-winning independent filmmaker Sarah Schenck, Rebecca Walton-Chirak (a former Peace Corps volunteer in Turkmenistan now married to a Turkmen), Alice Turner (who asked about EU issues and declared that our answers were more revealing than what she reads in the New York Times) and Meagan MacDonald, who related that last year when she announced plans to visit Istanbul she began receiving dissuading phone calls from worried friends and relatives – including an agent of the American Automobile Association to assure her the Turkish city was not safe for a single woman. None of these advisors had ever been to Turkey. Meagan went to Paris instead – but now she is renewing plans to visit Istanbul! Surprise guest of the evening was Kim Hauser Trigoboff, who looked very familiar to Anastasia but refused all suggestions of association – and she especially rejected the idea that she played sports in college. Finally she was outed as Anastasia’s former teammate on the BMC varsity badminton squad, an activity which some people do consider a sport!

Among the non-alums present were Peabody award-winning documentary director and producer Judith Helfand who is also an adjunct professor at New York University's undergraduate film and television program, and hostess Elizabeth Robinson’s condominium neighbor Maura Geils, a real estate agent who wondered about the Turkish property market – and plans to visit (if not buy) soon. We’re at the top of the market, people.

Thanks to Magda Pecsenye for organizing the event and Elizabeth Robinson and her half-Turkish boyfriend Jim Kafadar who arranged for a veritable feast of Turkish food. Anastasia especially liked the spicy chicken Adana kebabs!

Monday, May 22, 2006


Fleet Week in NYC!

We arrived in Manhattan the week leading up to the Memorial Day holiday, when the town was awash in sailors. Fleet Week! As civilian tours swarmed the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard vessels docked all around Manhattan, the city streets were filled with thousands of men and women in crisp uniform, on R&R for the 19th annual celebration of Fleet Week NYC.

Hoping to take in a little culture, we popped over to the majestic Morgan Library & Museum, just around the corner from our hotel on Madison Avenue. Founded by the legendary New York financier Pierpont Morgan (at the turn of the 20th century he had a robber-baron control of American banks, corporations and railroads) and housing one of the world’s greatest collections of artistic and literary works -- including Mozart and Beethoven original music scores, Gutenberg bibles and manuscripts by Charles Dickens and Mark Twain -- the newly renovated establishment proved too popular and we couldn’t even squeeze in for a peek!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Michigan Days

We spent the latter half of the week in Jennifer’s native Michigan, a place named after the Chippewa Indian word for Lake Michigan, meicigama, meaning "great water." You might not suspect it from her fair complexion, but Jennifer has distant native American roots in the Woodland Cree tribe, although the name “Jennifer” in fact comes the Gaelic word for “fish-belly white”.

Once in Michigan, we had four events in succession at major bookstore chains:

-Barnes & Noble (May 18, Ann Arbor; and May 21, East Lansing) and
-Borders (May 19, Ann Arbor; and May 20, in Jennifer’s parents home base of Brighton)

We spoke with a total of 56 people in audiences comprised of area Turks, travelers, family friends and colleagues, former professors and schoolmates.

EH contributor Katie Belliel, also a “Michigander”, joined us at two of the readings before heading back home to Istanbul. Katie’s father Ray Belliel came from Detroit for a reading, as did her college friends Sunshine Bujak and Barnes & Noble staffer Stormy.

We were pleased to meet Bryan Smith in Ann Arbor, contributor to Eastern Michigan University's Eastern Echo newspaper, who is interviewing us for an upcoming feature story. Bryan spent his childhood in Turkey and has fond memories of the place.

In Ann Arbor readings we were joined by Jennifer’s retired Western Michigan University literature professor Mike Jayne and his wife Elaine, former librarian at U of M and WMU, who drove “exactly one hundred miles” from Kalamazoo. There were other scholars as well, including Katie’s anthropology professor from Eastern Michigan University, Barbara Bilge who was once married to a Turk.

Representing the Turkish American Community Association of Michigan were Mehpare Gençyüz, Türknur Hamsıcı, Tuba Süzer-Gürtekın, and others. Winning the prize for most distance traveled to attend an EH event were Yüksel and Cindy Taşkın along with their infant Tarık --who heard about the reading from a previous night’s attendee Mehpare-- and then drove 90 minutes from Rochester, Michigan! It was not only Tarık’s first book signing, it was the first time he’d been out of the house since his birth! Their friend Müge Okuyucu drove an hour from Canton as well! Then there was Tayfun and Neeki Özdemir, a couple from Trabzon and Iran respectively. A giggling Tayfun admitted to us that he empathized most with EH contributor Dana "FeminIstanbul" Gonzalez, who wrote his favorite story. He remembers all too well how embarrassing a trip to the pharmacy can be! Sue and Osman brought their beautiful daughters, and Diana Krajewski said the book reminded her of the Turks who befriended her during her students days in Holland.

Other audience members were travelers to Turkey, like Borders staffer Chris who’s visited the country six times, and Borders Ann Arbor event coordinator James Jensen who was stationed in Turkey during his Navy days (and who came in to emcee our event even though he was on vacation)! Thank you, James... and again, we are so sorry Jennifer lost the tea set we’d brought 14,000 miles for you and carefully toted through our whole tour (only to forget it in an Ann Arbor shop minutes before seeing you).

While in Ann Arbor we also stopped by the original Borders store on E. Liberty as well as bookstore Shaman's Drum, where staffer Jason expressed his desire to see Turkey.

In Brighton, family friend Tom Mozdzen videoed the event, while a majority of the audience had read the book and was well-prepared with questions. Audience members included Jennifer’s parents Joan and Dennis Eaton, family friends, and peers from the Brighton Art Guild, Metropolitan Detroit Polymer Clay Guild, and Brighton Artique Group: Velinka Cucuz, Barbara Mozdzen, Lorie Armstrong, Rita Korzym, Lois Harvey, Janice Sparks and daughter, Pamela Day, Barbara Anderson, Ann Buckman, Jeanne Pohl, Sue Screws, Jerry Lindsay and wife (Dorothy’s parents). After the Brighton event Saturday afternoon, Jennifer’s parents hosted a lovely reception at their home. We appreciate Jennifer's mother attending each of the four events...what a trooper!

In Lansing we met up with Jennifer’s college friends Eric and Sherry Anderson with their daughters Natalie and Madalyn as well as a totally different Eric who will be traveling to Turkey for the first time next week with his Euro-hopping galpal. We know he’ll have fun (and we’ve offered to bail him out of jail if he has more fun than is allowed by law...)

On Sunday morning, May 21, we were interviewed live on-air at the University of Michigan’s radio station WCBN 88.3 FM by Mehmet Karabıyık for his Turkish Delight program. Mehmet said he especially liked the Hamam chapter while Murat, a listener who called in to the show, asked us about the plight of women in Turkey. Fellow Turk, DJ Yalçın Yanıkoğlu of WCBN’s Dromedary Hour, declared we were national heroes for the country.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Turkish American Day and EH Media

We were en route from Seattle to Michigan on May 17th, Turkish American Day, but we were able to celebrate the occasion by interviewing with Ahmet Toprak of San Francisco Turkish radio, who will soon air the program on KUSF 90.3FM.

In the next few weeks we will also be interviewed by Paul Lasley on Discovery Channel’s syndicated nationwide radio show as well as Travel Talk Radio with Sandy Dhuyetter.

We’ve been receiving recommendations in the media recently, like in Jane Magazine editor Katy McColl's May 3rd blog entry:

I pick out books based on their titles…I also think Tales from the Expat Harem (edited by Anastasia M. Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Gokmen) and A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews have nice titles. The NYT book review has its criteria, I have mine. — Katy

Tour guide extraordinaire and 30 year travel writing veteran Rick Steves (author of Europe Through The Back Door) lists Expat Harem among his must-reads for people visiting Turkey.

Expat Harem is now in the University of Denver’s Penrose Library, too, and now available at Tesco (UK’s leading chainstore) and Tower Records.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Brother Can You Spare a Dime (or perhaps this kilim)?

We must commend Dena for planning such gorgeous weather. Apparently sunny, cloudless, high-80 degree days are not common for Washington in mid-May. In fact, the three of us were working up quite a sweat walking around the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle, dropping by shops to pass out EH postcards and welcome people to that evening’s event.

Egyptian Jehan Strouse at Bee Well Vitamin Shoppe saw our nazar boncuğu jewelry and immediately began chatting with us about her days in her homeland, taking us up on an offer to check out Dena’s bellydancing classes, an interest they share... Jehan also shares a name with Dena’s son (spelled Ceyhan in Turkish). Kathy Riley, owner of Bonnie River, a fair trade and world friendly store, swapped retail ideas and stories with Dena, while Jennifer clamored over Kathy’s unique and affordable fare, finally settling on a cat-shaped flaxseed-filled eye pillow (thus ending her nationwide search for “just the right one”). We stopped by Istanbul Cafe on 45th St., surprised to find new Indian proprietors rather than Istanbulites. In any case, they make quite a decent cup of Türk kahvesi.

Strolling on, we met John at Open Books: A Poem Emporium and though Jennifer had no intentions of purchasing a book (we are over our airline luggage weight limit as it is!), she was nevertheless beguiled by Naveed Alam’s A Queen of No Ordinary Realms. This is the stanza from a poem called Bewitched that quickly hooked her:

She grabs a sea breeze by the hair, hisses
in its ear: dulled your knives on the leaves, missy?
Let me show you how to skin the autumn.

Upon reading the remainder of the book later, she realized that the overt homo-erotic imagery in many of the other poems-- though stunning and powerful-- didn’t quite speak to her as personally as Bewitched had. And, Naveed recycled too many of his more distinctive adjectives... but the book is the winner of the 2003 Spokane Prize for Poetry, so what does Jennifer know?

As Naveed teaches creative writing at City University of New York, we might run into him at our book tour finale: the May 25th Moon & Stars Project Mayfest event at 6:30pm at 34th and 5th Avenue (free and open to the public).

Eventually we found ourselves in Mehak Indian Cuisine for lunch, where we were served a mouth-watering meal by the strikingly blue-eyed Gurmeet Kaur and her husband Jagtam Singh. It was the best dal we’ve had in a long time, and their salty lassi would give any respectable Turkish ayran a run for its money! Gurmeet, just learning English, was effusive in her hospitality and we’re sure Dena and family will be going back there.

When we ambled into Wide World Books & Maps, we were pleased to hear that owners Simone Andrus and Stanley Toops will soon be in Turkey with a Fulbright Scholarship group, and that several other employees of this independent seller of travel books consider Turkey a favorite destination. As we lounged outside on the bookstore’s bench, we met Bertan Akın, his sister Aslı, and his American wife Jill, the three of whom were very excited to join our event, particularly Jill, who was eager to learn more about her husband’s culture.

Though the day was spotlessly sunny from dawn to dusk, a crowd of 32 packed into Wide World to listen to Dena, Wendy Fox, and us, including: Izumi Pınar Sekine Fairbanks, a 1984 graduate of Istanbul International Community School where Jennifer worked and Dena’s children attended school; Stefanie Durbin, content editor for the travel website Expedia; filmmaker Carol Geertsema; local realtor and Turk Fest organizer Yasemin San, a Turk who has lived in Seattle for 25 years; Laura Finkelstein; Zeynep Angın Shorter and her mother visiting from Turkey; Margaret and Rick, who are soon off to Ankara for business (with perhaps a stop in Cappadocia); and Andreas Wanka and Mayumi Tsuru, among many others.

The energized crowd shared Turkish stories of their own, like one gentleman who, while short of cash on two separate trips through Turkey, found vendors and service providers willing to give him goods like hand-made carpets –and even a 9 night hotel stay when his debit card was eaten by an ATM—fully confident that he would clear his debt once back home.

It was an excellent night, and though no donuts played a part in the late evening festivities, we enjoyed stargazing on Dena’s deck in the dark, listening to the gentle sound of small waves breaking on the lakeshore.

Monday, May 15, 2006


A Room with (an Alpine) View

At Third Place Books in verdant Lake Forest, Washington we were joined by EH contributors and local residents Wendy Fox (“Coming Clean in Kayseri”) and Dena Sukaya (“The Business of the Bazaar”).

Dena now is the proprietress of Ottoman Trading Company in Bothell, WA, carrying treasures from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Earlier in the day we met Jeffrey Altaras at her shop whose family has Sephardic Jewish roots in Tekirdağ, Turkey.

A crowd of 23 included Eleanor Jones, a woman who has traveled the world as an international teacher for 35 years and just returned from a trip to Turkey; Joanne and Danny White who were Peace Corps Volunteers in Ankara teaching chemistry at Middle East Technical University; King County Public Library staffer Jessica McClinton and İlker Cengiz; Heidi Heidenreich who will soon be traveling to Turkey and her friend Margy; Tracy, who was a history of religions student in Iran in the 1980s; and Sean Finney from Cingular Wireless who is entertaining the idea of working in the cellular phone business in Turkey.

Dena, our long-time friend from Istanbul and an excellent hostess, served us whisky and donuts as an after-dinner celebration as we giggled over "old times"...

Her home on Stevens Lake has a breathtaking view of Mount Baker pictured above.

Mile Marker
Anastasia and I are now on our 6,000th mile (!!!) and 22nd state. Tonight was our 20th event, and our overall audience total has hit 610 for an event average of 30 people per event--not bad!

Saturday, May 13, 2006


The Godfather of Adana

We spent the weekend relaxing and soaking up the summer temperatures of Sacramento with Anastasia’s sister Monika Ashman. Though it was over 90 degrees in the shade, our visit was cool and comfortable with a barbecue party in the garden with Monika’s pals Colleen Stanturf and Sarah Obermeier.

In addition to the fabulous portabellos Colleen prepared, we had fresh local asparagus and sweet corn from a veg stand in Dixon, veggie kabobs, shrimp stirfry, and even some fresh coconut (after our agressive attempts with various tools and hardware to crack that sucker open).

Sasparilla (aka Sass), Monika’s regal black cat, played coy most of the weekend, but allowed us to bestow our congratulations on her for her 13th birthday Sunday.

Sunday afternoon we cruised through Sacramento’s Old Town which sports the original wild west style buildings and historic-looking storefronts from its pioneer past, complete with saloons, a riverboat, wooden “gangplank” sidewalks, and horsedrawn carriages.

On the airplane to Seattle that evening, we met The Godfather of Adana, Milton Ruffins. Now in the office of Washington’s Attorney General’s Office, Milton was once stationed in Adana, Turkey during his time in the US Air Force JAG Corps. Milton had such a wonderful time in Turkey that he’s maintained his friendships with his Turkish “family” for over 25 years, even acting as the godfather to his friend Cahit Gezir’s daughter Yasemin. Milton returns to Turkey frequently and even participated in Yasemin’s wedding, to which 4,000 guests came (many out of curiosity to see the American godfather)! Aside from being a one-man promotional team for Turkey, Milton also writes for an Olympia-based newspaper on cross-cultural events and issues.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Palms, Plants and Painted Ladies

We started off the day with a special treat—Anastasia’s architect/artist/horticulturist friend Todd Worley toured us and our hostess Alicia around San Francisco’s famed Conservatory of Flowers near the eastern end of the Golden Gate Park. Having Todd lead the way through North America’s oldest existing public conservatory was a particular treat; as a volunteer there and an extraordinary green-thumb, his input made the exhibits even more intriguing. Together we spotted the Luna Moth perched on a flower in the butterfly exhibit and marveled at the variety of the conservatory’s flora.

After lunch at Park Chow they took Jennifer to at Alamo Square park for a view of the city’s reknown “Painted Ladies”, a row of historic Victorian homes typical of the style found throughout the area.

We stopped in at Get Lost Books on Market Street to sign their copies of EH and met GLB staffer Lee Azuz, whose family has roots in Turkey reaching back 400 years as Sephardic Jews who relocated to Çanakkale and whose family still speaks Ladino, the historic Jewish-Spanish dialect.

The refurbished historical Ferry Building was hopping that evening with its semi-weekly farmers’ market, some of whom joined us and Catherine Salter Bayar for our event at Book Passage. Among the 31 audience members were Catherine’s friend Kim Smith, parents Gayle and Phil Salter and family, Alicia’s friends Jerry and Dilara Guay (Dilara’s sister Dilraba in Istanbul is currently staging a one woman show she wrote and produced called “Mustafa Kemal’i Sevdim” about the important women in life of Turkey’s founder); Cindy Casey of Broadway Travel, who is investigating how to get EH on cruise ships; Margaretta von Recklinghausen, a Reiki master, who was particularly interested the shamanic roots of Turkish culture; five BMC alums including Katharine Patterson and Susan Brock; Dany Vallerand, a San Francisco antiques dealer whose best friend Shellie Corman has a cafe in Cihangir; and Brandy Donahoe and husband Terry, who lived in Turkey a few years ago when Terry was awarded a Fulbright scholarship. We met Brandy in Istanbul at an American Women of Istanbul meeting, so it was nice to have our paths cross again in a new context!

Alicia, Dilara and Jerry took us to a Thai restaurant next to Book Passage called The Slanted Door, where we met her friend Tuğçe, who coincidentally was in Jennifer’s Bilgi University belly dancing classes 4 years ago! We spent the evening reliving our teacher Nesrin Topkapı's unusual methods.

Jennifer again has a Thai soup recommendation: crab and asparagus...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


People's Republic of Berkeley!

The day started with a drive to Berkeley for lunch with Anastasia’s parents Charles and Terese at a little cafe around the corner from their home: Chez Panisse, the jewel of Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto”. We left a book for proprietress Alice Waters, who has been inspired by her experiences in Turkey.

Afterwards Anastasia drove Jennifer through neighborhoods where spring rains had turned free-form residential gardens into fantastical blossoming behemoths which threatened to envelop the houses!

At our Black Oak Books appearance where we were joined by Catherine Salter Bayar, the manager Lewis Klausner had his hands full trying to rustle enough chairs—they were filling up as quickly as he could put them out. We were pleased to have such a strong crowd, considering 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi was speaking at another venue nearby. In the end more than 60 people were in attendance at Black Oak, with many patrons having to stand throughout the presentation, like the white-maned senior bicyclist who kept his helmet on the entire night! Familiar faces from Anastasia’s past included family friends and colleagues like artist Diana Wolfbear, and Berkeley Hills Realty brokers Nancy Mueller and Peter Damm. Anastasia's Sacramento-based sister Monika sent her friends Tosha Davis and Colleen Stanturf. Also present were a lively contingent from the Bryn Mawr Club of Northern California, bringing the alum count to 16: Doris Beers, Faith Wallace-Godsen, Mary Aline Stevens, Kathleen Greene Orloff, and Kate Makofske. Black Oak quickly sold out of its EH stock.

Catherine's artist pal Kim Smith was on hand as were Alicia’s turkophile friends Maryam Ghassemzadeh, her father, and her husband Mohammed Kolahdooz invited us to their home for a fabulous feast Maryam prepared. Lovers of Turkey, they have had a summer home in Bodrum for many years now.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Mystery Man (not) at Cody’s

We began the day in San Francisco looking for Fillmore Street’s Turkish population, which turned out to be an easy task... Our first stop was O & Co. Mediterranean Food Merchant where we met Eser Özkay, originally from Malatya who has lived in USA for 25 years. Next door was Cafe L’Mediterranee, whose owner Levon was also happy to hear about EH.

We stopped by Browser Books to sign some EH bookplates before heading down to Union Street in Pacific Heights where we met Meltem, who owns a small jewelry store—we knew she was Turkish as soon as we saw the nazar boncuğu necklaces she was selling! We met others along Union, like Joanie Giannini who loves traveling to Mediterranean countries and has Turkey next on her list!

At Cody’s Books on Stockton Street (the Union Square branch of the reknowned Bay Area independent bookseller) we were pleased to be joined by two EH contributors: Ana “The Language of Family” Fletes and Catherine Salter Bayar. Also in the crowd of 19 was professor John Levy, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and his Turkish wife Lale; Judith Sender, sister of John Levy and organizer of the speaker series at Noe Valley Ministry ; architect Bobbie Sue Hood, the 11th Bryn Mawr alum to support the tour; Hayal Koç of JPMorgan Chase; Denise Wilkerson who saw a mention of EH on Moorish Girl, the literary blog of author Laila Lalami-- after our event says she’s inspired to pen her own account of living in Cairo!

Conspicuously absent was the blonde gent in the suit who stopped by Cody’s 30 minutes beforehand telling the events coordinator Rachel that he had gone to school with one of the EH writers.Though he said he’d come back later for the event, he never did! Who are you, mystery man?

With a group of friends from the reading we dropped in at the ultrahot 111 Minna Gallery South of Market, and dined at Osha Thai Restaurant with EH contributors and friends. Jennifer recommends the coconut soup Tom Yum Ka.

Thank you to our kind hostess Alicia DeVilla, Jennifer's friend from the Expat in Turkey forum, who sacrificed her comfort for days while putting us up!

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Lillies of the Valley

We headed back towards the Hollywood hills for an event on May 6th at the Tarzana home of Naime Berkoz, member of Turkish American Ladies’ League (TALL), whose board members organized this lovely Sunday brunch. Thank you to president Asuman Yılmaz, and board members present: Demetra George, Dilek Yücel (who is the mirror image of Jennifer’s mother in her thirties), Meral Haymes, and Ayşe Gören.

A crowd of 50 ladies and Demetra's debonaire father enjoyed Naime’s stunning sylvan view of the valley from her veranda as well as the sumptuous buffet.

After selling out of TALL’s 50 copies and our 27 copies of the book (!!!) we enjoyed the warm temperature and sunshine as we spoke with an audience of Turkish ladies; American, Greek, Mexican, and German “gelins”; and adult children of Turkish and American parents.

Demetra (TALL founder and Grammy-nominated soprano) introduced our anthology as what she calls a “bathtub book”—so good, you want to relax in the tub with it! Wife of the Honorary Consul General for Northern Cyprus, Demetra bought 11 copies of the book for her husband’s diplomatic colleagues as well as all her friends.

Hafize Turgut of aLAturkaonline videoed the event and will follow with an interview later this month.

Audience members shared their own experiences, too, like Renate Günen, who describes her life as a young German bride in Istanbul in the 1960s. Leyla Cohen told us, “Having been born over 50 years ago to an American and one Turkish parent, it is good to hear of literature coming from [those who experience Turkish culture through foreign eyes].”

We were overwhelmed by the interest and enthusiasm of the members of this group and hope to meet them all again on our side of the ocean!

We wholeheartedly agree with comments by Network Security Consultant Tülin Mangir. She pointed out Turkey’s life-changing effect on famous Chez Panisse founder and food revolutionary Alice Waters, who, in Lonely Planet’s The Kindness of Strangers says, “The Turks were hospitable in a way that made the mythical come alive. It was as though we were living that beautiful story of Baucis and Philemon who took in Zeus and Hermes when they were visiting earth disguised as travelers. They gave us the very best of everything they had.”


A Sunny Day in Irvine

After breakfast in La Jolla, California and a stroll along the wild beach cliffs to enjoy a flock of brown pelicans and a colony of harbor seals, we headed north to the master-planned community of Irvine.

The Orange County Turkish American Association graciously hosted an event for 27 people at the Alumni House on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, organized by Sevda Aleckson and sponsored by local Turkish businesspeople.

Thank you to Baklava King who provided the event with what Jennifer says is the best baklava she has ever had (and she's had A LOT)!

We were pleased to meet members of the Turkish American community like Ahmet Atahan, a board member of the Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California (ATASC) and one of Anastasia's fellow Cihangirlilar; and the half-Turkish half-American Michelle Drouse, vice chairman of the ATASC and an urban planner at Forma who intends to work and live in Turkey one day.

We were also joined by a slew of American businesspeople who have longtime ties with Turkey as well as those who are embarking on new ventures in the country: the worldly Bill Edwards (president of Edwards Global which consults American firms on direct foreign investment opportunities) declared his years living in Ankara as the best he spent abroad; Diane Landau, the president of the project management consulting firm Global Resources is heading to Turkey this summer; and career transition specialist William Ellermeyer travels to Turkey regularly for business.

Jennifer was happy to meet fellow Western Michigan University alum Mustafa Arat and his family. Mustafa noted that he recommended EH to WMU cultural anthropologist Sarah Hill. Perhaps the anthology will make it onto a reading list at Jennifer's alma mater!

EH has been added to the libraries of these universities:
-University of Wisconsin/ Madison
-Florida Atlantic University

Friday, May 05, 2006

Del Mar, CA: The Hollywood of San Diego

The Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California San Diego hosted us on Friday, May 5th near the seaside at scenic and stylish Del Mar, California. Our hostess, the president of ATASC-SD Arzu Kurkoğlu, did a wonderful job organizing the event and the group’s members gave terrific support, plying us with their homemade baked goods, like Hande Efe’s börek. Thanks also to Hande’s husband Cem (who now spells it “Jem”) for being our official photographer.

The audience of 30 included Turkophiles like Lynn Heyman-Hogue, a French teacher who told us, “I feel like you wrote this book for me personally. I have become obsessed with Turkey and my friends who haven't been there don't understand. I come home from my trips there so excited to share my experience, but there's no one in my circle who can relate. I was thrilled to read your book and realize there are people out there who feel the same as I do."

Others, like Bill and Sharon Bethard, have family members who have married into Turkish families so they are doing what they can to immerse themselves in the culture (their daughter Lynn Çetin has been teaching at Bilkent for the past 4 years). ATASC-SD member Sengul is even teaching them Turkish! Some people there were married to Turks, like Victoria Kırtay, environmental scientist in the US Navy, who lived 2 years in Istanbul and wedded a Cypriot Turk.

Some were children and adult children of Turkish and American parents, like Canan Serdar (who was responsible for selling 42 copies of EH to enthusiastic attendees that night) and Defne Jones, with whom we share a mutual friend (Marlene Elwell from Bilkent University in Ankara).

Still others were cajoled into coming, like Davis Kayemba from KPMG, whose friend had attended our LA Book Soup event earlier that week! Davis, you enjoyed yourself, admit it!

And at each appearance, we have had the staunch support of the local Turkish community. The San Diego Turks who joined us included: soprano singer Ayşe Underhill whose husband Robert penned MIT Press’s highly regarded linguistics book Turkish Grammar; Pamuk Bilsel and her mother Hilal; Nazlı and Sibel Güner and Sibel’s friend Katherine Lo; Seda Doğan; and Gül Abut, to name just a few...

After the event, we enjoyed drinks with our hosts at a neighboring bar, which was hopping with Cinco de Mayo revellers!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Hurray for Hollywood

May 3rd on the Sunset Strip, a few paces from legendary entertainment establishments like the Whisky A Go Go nightclub and the Chateau Marmont hotel, we had our Hollywood debut at Book Soup, “Bookseller to the Great and Infamous”.

Since Anastasia has lost her voice and is reduced to a whisper (allergic to the Western United States?) we were lucky it was an intimate evening surrounded by her friends from their days at Metro Goldwyn Mayer motion picture studio, including Dianne Magambo from Yahoo (also our LA hostess), screenwriter Billie Jo Mason who evaluates creative material for the William Morris Agency, and Sarah Shaw, reknowned boutique clothier and handbag designer to the stars.

Questions from other audience members revolved around the dating scene in İstanbul (Los Angeles residents seemed surprised to hear that chivalry is not dead!).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Hospitable Desert Climes

Welcomed to Tempe, Arizona by the many-limbed Saguaro cacti and the screamingly bright yellow blooms of the green-trunked Palo Verde trees (Arizona’s state tree), we found the Sonoran Desert more hospitable than hostile, though it is known as the hottest North American desert.

Tempe’s sunny disposition was further enhanced by the 70 people who attended our event on Tuesday, 2 May at the Efes Turkish Cuisine restaurant! A huge thank you to organizers Arzuhan Kavak and Zeynep Kılıç working under the auspices of the Turkish American Association of Arizona (TAA-AZ) and The Bosphorus Art Project. Zeynep and husband Ali were also kind enough to host us in their lovely home. For this evening event the owners of Efes graciously provided a sumptuous and complimentary buffet of of Turkish meze like lahmacun and patlıcan salatası. And ohhhh, what baklava!

It was wonderful to have EH contributor Catherine Salter Bayar and Kim Smith join us again for this event, and we thank her friend Everett for allowing us to recruit him as our official photographer for the evening.

We were pleased to meet attendees like Jeni Grossman and her husband Dr. Gary Grossman, founders of the Tiny Peaces project, a goodwill and charity organization aimed at providing grassroots assistance to economically challenged Turkish communities. Arizona State University professor and former Fulbright Scholar at Middle East Technical University, Dr. Grossman has traveled to Turkey 34 times in the last fifteen years. During their year and a half living in Turkey, Jeni worked for the GAP organization in Ankara and received an international journalism award for her series of news articles in the Turkish Daily News about the Zeugma Excavation in Turkey’s Southeast. In mid-May, the Grossmans will be leading a group of Americans to Turkey for one of their projects and many from the group were in attendance that night.

Anastasia noted that it took family-loving Turks to reunite her with some extended family in the Phoenix area, including relatives she hadn’t seen in cousin Roberta Romano and family, and great aunt Marie Ippolito and family!

Also joining us was Jacie Carter, director of the Carter Foundation for fostering literacy and combatting domestic violence and LinDee Rochelle, founder of Women Writers of the Desert, as well as members of her writing group. There were so many people at the event that it was difficult to keep track of how many new friends we were making. About half the crowd were from Tempe’s Turkish population, and the other half were friends, relatives, and Turkophiles.

En route to LA today, we are now in our 19th state and our 4,215th mile! Hollywood is today’s destination for our evening appearance at the celebrity-frequented Book Soup.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Arizona Dream

Leaving the lush green hills of Nashville for the hot but blooming desert of Tucson, Arizona was a shock to our systems – but we were soon enough in our element at independent bookseller Antigone Books, who hosted our Monday, May 1st event.

EH contributor Catherine Salter Bayar--author of Water Under the Bridge-- was on hand, fresh in from the performance of her piece at Orpheum Arts Space in Albuquerque, New Mexico, an event complete with seven bellydancers... Her artist friend Kim Smith joined her as well.

The crowd of 27 who came to see us at Antigone consisted of Tucson Turks and their significant others like Hikmet Kocamaner (currently penning a paper on the 1978 Oliver Stone movie Midnight Express); Dr. Senzil Nawid from University of Arizona’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) who is writing a novel about an Englishwoman in Afghanistan at the turn of the century; and many Turkophiles who have worked in, traveled to, or hope to eventually travel to the country.

Danielle Van Dobben wins the prize for most enthusiastic audience member. After checking EH out of the University of Arizona library some weeks ago and reading it cover to cover, she set the record at Antigone for most copies bought—seven copies of EH to distribute to all her friends!

EH in University Libraries
More and more universities are beginning to carry EH in their libraries. Besides University of Arizona, the anthology is also on the shelves of these institutions:
-Georgetown University
-Tennessee State University
-University of Alabama
-University of Michigan
-University of Vermont

We have now covered 3,736 miles by land and air, traversing 18 states (14 of them via car). We have held 11 events now, presenting to over 290 people.

4.5 weeks left to go!

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