Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Editors Host Celebrated Turkish Writer Elif Shafak

Literature and life strategies were the focus of today’s midmorning expat event in Kurucesme, a waterfront suburb of Istanbul. Anastasia and I invited Istanbul’s resident foreigners to the healing facilities of Chi’um Istanbul spa to meet Turkey’s award-winning novelist Elif Shafak and savor summer refreshments prepared by American raw food chef Chad Sarno.

Area expats jumped at the opportunity to meet Elif, a woman often in the headlines due to her recent book The Bastard of Istanbul (Baba ve Pic). Professor of Near Eastern studies at the University of Arizona and author of seven novels including The Saint of Incipient Insanities, she spoke about the writing life, the controversy surrounding her novels, and her theories on language, culture, and the historical record.

The crowd of thirty included Expat Harem contributors Katie Belliel, Mahira Afridi-Perese, Kathy Hamilton Gundogdu, Eveline Zoutendijk, and Trici Venola, as well as cross-cultural professionals Ajda Mustafova of exchange student organization AISEC and writer for Escape Artist magazine Robin Sparks, Zaman newspaper writer Nicole Ozturan, British stockbroker Mariella Edgerly, German consulate wife Cynthia Hauser, director of the Zanussi cooking school Ozlem Akyazici, writer and film producer Emine Yildirim, and many other friends from the International Women of Istanbul, American Women of Istanbul, Expat in Turkey, and other expat groups.

We were pleased to organize this event and introduce Elif to so many of our friends. A social scientist, Elif writes regularly for numerous periodicals including the Turkish Daily News and Zaman. We first met Elif Shafak while preparing Tales from the Expat Harem. In fact, Elif wrote the tear-jerking foreword for the Turkish edition of our book (Turkce Sevmek). Turkey's premier female novelist (and according to Orhan Pamuk, "the best author to come out of Turkey in the last decade"), Elif is as engaging to listen to as she is to read.

After Elif’s discussion, we sampled the savory delights of Chad Sarno, author and vegan chef to the stars. Chad, who has specialized in raw food cuisine for the past 12 years, presented a brief philosophy and health benefits of his vital creations and introduced us to The Life Co., a new ‘life strategies’ global enterprise which has drawn him to these shores.

We thank Anja, the manager of Chi’um Istanbul and Figen Tuncsav of The Life Co. who graciously sponsored the event. With Chi’um’s juice bar, sensory-deprivation flotation tanks, massage bays, and yoga room, it is certainly a place we’ll be happy to frequent!

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