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.



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