Sunday, April 30, 2006


EH Editors Find Themselves in Tennessee State Penitentiary

....Or we would have, had we not realized we missed the turn for CAO Cigars a mile earlier. We have to admit we were a bit dubious that we would have any audience come out that day given the rainy weather and the remote location, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a full parking lot and the second largest crowd of our entire tour so far!

The 42 people in attendance on Sunday, April 30th filled every available chair in the luxurious showroom of premium cigarmakers CAO, owned by the Özgeners, a family whose matron Esen seems to be the patriotic pinnacle of Nashville Turks. Esen, a former Vanderbilt professor of Child Development, had primed the audience well-- and admitted to having given away most of the books she had intended to sell that day. There were Turks of all generations present, as well as Esen’s book club friends who had already read and discussed the book. She even brought along her water aerobics classmates!

Adding to the inquisitive and participatory audience were: travel author and editor of the Perceptive Travel website Tim Leffel (Tim reviews Expat Harem in the May/June issue of PT's online magazine as well as blogs his impressions of this event on his BookLocker site); photographer and wanderer Todd Adams; Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology Dr. Richard Odom; Dr. Yıldız Binkley, Director of Libraries for Tennessee State University –Oprah Winfrey’s alma mater (Dr. Binkley and other audience members suggested EH is a project that would certainly appeal to Oprah and we agree!); German ladies Karsta Eryaşa and İnka Odom (İnka is seen as the local authority on some of the best things to see and do in Turkey!); and Barbara Card and Bruce Poag, Jennifer’s longtime friends from her high school days in Nashville.

Thank you to Madonna Coffman and Esen, Aylin, and Murat Özgener for a wonderful event! Thank you also, to Cynthia, Greg, and Hubbard Weil, who hosted us (along with their dogs Bubba and Cassius).

Milemarker 2000
While in Nashville, we clocked the 2000th mile of our tour, right at the intersection of Hillsboro Road and Harding Place in Green Hills, just a block from Nashville’s famed Bluebird Cafe, known for its history as a “launching pad” for country music songwriters.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Visit to Bowling Green, Kentucky

We stopped in Bowling Green on April 29th to visit Jennifer's brother Chris, his wife Julie, and their beautiful kids Hunter and Claire. It was a special treat to be able to celebrate Claire's 3rd birthday while we were there, at a birthday party attended by friends and family.

Aunt Jenny also got to go to Hunter's baseball game and can attest that seven-year-olds can wallop a baseball pretty fiercely (in fact one of the pitching coaches was lucky not to have lost his noggin). Hunter got two hits that game as well as one run!

A Fountain of Nostalgia in Dayton, Ohio

After a flattering and informed introduction by C. David Bowman of Books & Co. (he called the anthology "a crisply edited treasure trove of intercultural adventure" and admitted he had stayed up to 6 a.m. reading it!), we had a lively reading for 17 people in Dayton, Ohio on Friday April 28. Anastasia had a reunion with her former Los Angeles housemate Annetta Major, who brought her mother and her grandmother -- a family which hails from former Ottoman Empire outpost Macedonia. Sharing their own memories of Turkey were husband and wife Dave and Matty who were once attached to the U.S. military in Ankara 1979-1981 (they bought books for Matty's book club and a retirement facility where Dave now works, and suggested that the collection is a perfect primer for military families preparing for Turkey postings); Lynette, whose daughter we met earlier in the day at Dayton Mall and convinced us of the six degrees of separation every American has with Turkey when she revealed that her mother worked for the U.S. Department of Defense in Ankara and Karamürsel in the 1970s and her father was in the U.S. airforce at Turkey's İncirlik base; and a librarian from the Claymont Library of Uhrichsville, Ohio, who purchased a copy for its collection. We also were pleased to meet a member of the Dayton Turkish community, pianist Tiraje Guneyman Ruckman, who moved from İstanbul to the USA in 1970 to study music at Juilliard, where she met her American husband. A misty-eyed Tiraje said she thought "Expat Harem was a wonderful book, presenting so many facets of Turkish life in an honest, truthful way". When she got home from the reading she wrote to tell us that "it just felt good to hear some positive stuff for a change about Turkey rather than all the stereotypical falsehoods."

Friday, April 28, 2006


The Little Red House

Despite having announced the wrong address for our event last night (Wednesday, 26 April), we were thrilled to be joined by so many enthusiastic supporters. For those of you who may have been knocking fruitlessly on the door of that cute little blue house at 1836 18th Street, we apologize! We were at 1536 a few blocks down in the little RED townhouse...

As soon as we showed up, there were television cameras pointed at us. Özge Ovun from Voice of America News interviewed us and filmed the event, which will air on Turkey’s national TGRT News (9:30PM on either 30 April or 7 May).

Also filming was Erju Ackman and his partner Goksin Carey. Erju is a filmmaker, as well as the owner of Mavi Boncuk blog. He and his wife began interviewing us in Istanbul in January for a segment they will air on Virginia’s Channel 10 (WSLS NBC) in the near future.

Organized by the ever-supportive Didem Muslu of the American-Turkish Association of DC, the event was held at the homebase of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations —the Türkevi (Turkish House), and was attended by ATA-DC president, Pelin Aylangan (who is currently penning a Turkish culinary history and memoir) and secretary, Patsy Jones (whose Fenerbahçe-loving Turkish inlaws are scandalized by her love of the rival football team Beşiktaş!).

Audience members included: Yalçın Sert, director of student portals at the University of Maryland and owner of various forums and web portals; Ralph and Linda, who are currently enrolled in US State Department Turkish language courses for Ralph’s impending posting to the US Embassy in Ankara as an FDA specialist (both Ralph and Linda told us they wished their entire Turkish class would have attended our event); Janet, who empathizes with EH contributor Catherine Yiğit as she also finds the dynamics of her large Turkish family daunting to navigate; Turks like Ayşe, a Crimean Turk, and Özge’s parents visiting from İzmit; and other daring American gelins, like Jetta Karabulut who has road trip adventures of her own to tell, like a trip from Istanbul to Mersin in 1968 with her two year old in tow!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Mystery Man Bearing Flowers and Fruit...

In our third appearance in DC, we presented the book to a crowd of 19 at Candida's World of Books, an Italian-owned shop devoted to international literature and music, located in the Logan Circle area.

We were pleased to be joined by journalists, travelers, culture hounds and artists including: Liz Gracon and Danielle Monosson, friends we met in Istanbul during their posting to the U.S. Consulate there; Kay McCarty, whose daughter has worked in Diyarbakir and Mardin, Turkey (a fan of Expat Harem, Kay bought her 9th, 10th, and 11th copies of the book at Candida's!); traveling an hour from Baltimore was Jeannette Belliveau, the author of soon-to-be-released Romance on the Road, a book documenting the controversial 'sex pilgrim' movement which Anastasia reviews (from an opposite stance) in the upcoming July/August issue of Perceptive Travel; Dawn, two-time visitor to Turkey for classes in the art of glasswork at the Cam Ocagi /Glass Furnace (inspired by EH contributor Diane Caldwell, Dawn may soon find herself relocating to Turkey); and Kirin Kalia, an editor at Migration Policy Institute, who brought the Bryn Mawr alumnae count on this tour to 10.

Most surprising guest was Mr. Sandler, a stately white-haired gentleman who, at the end of the event, wordlessly presented us with a bouquet of yellow roses and a sack of oranges!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


1,000th Mile

As we drove into Washington DC, we hit the 1,000th mile of our book tour at the junction of Connecticut Ave. and East West Highway. This also marks our 7th state after an evening in Philadelphia catching up with Susan Jackson and family—Susan was the first friend I met in Istanbul when Bil and I moved there in 1995.

The nation’s capital... What they say about DC in springtime is true—cherry blossoms galore. But the cherry trees had stiff competition from the blazing azaleas, delicate dogwoods, pansies, and hydrangeas decorating all corners of the town.

The first stop of the day was a visit to the reknowned Politics & Prose bookstore on Connecticut Ave. to sign copies of EH. We were pleased that the manager immediately recognized the name of our book and said she’d already sold several.

Our first event in DC on a balmy evening at sunset on Sunday, April 23rd, was a gathering of 12 friends, family, and neighbors on the veranda of our hostess Ashley Doherty. Guests included World Bank executives, lawyers, Knight Ridder staff, a Peace Corps alum, and even the aunt of my Istanbul neighbor Betsy Smith! Bryn Mawr alumnae count: 5.

The next event was today (Monday, April 24th) at the NGO Population Action International on Dupont Circle, an organization devoted to issues of women and children in the developing world. The brown bag lunch talk was comprised of 14 PAI staffers, including Heather Papp, intern and Master’s student of the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University who has a Turkish signficant other. Besides each person buying a book, they were also quick to secure a copy for their resource center.

Afterwards, we dropped by Olsson’s, Books-A-Million, and Kramer Books near Dupont Circle to sign their copies of EH.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Gender Across Borders Conference- University at Buffalo

We joined art, literature, sociology, and anthropology scholars in Buffalo for the academic conference Gender Across Borders II: Research Subjects. We were honored to be the only independent scholars invited to this event.

Among presenters such as Bhanu Kapil, Naropa University professor at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, we presented excerpts from Expat Harem that most radically illuminate the contextuality of gender and gender roles as experienced by our contributors during their assimilation to Turkish culture.

Sitting in on our presentation were friends of relatives, including Liuda Balcius, a visually-impaired charity activist who will be enlisting Expat Harem in a program by the US Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to record audio transcription of our book for nationwide distribution.

The image above is a photo of performance art by Ana Mendieta, whose works were analyzed by one of the presenters at the conference. This image was selected for the cover of the conference booklet.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Shuffle Off to Buffalo

Early Thursday (April 20th), we traveled west towards Buffalo.My octogenarian grandmother and great aunt took us to the famous Roycroft Inn for a grand meal in the quaint ambience of the 101 year old national landmark.

The area is known historically for the Roycroft Arts and Crafts Community founded in East Aurora, New York by writer-philosopher Elbert Hubbard, who developed and promoted a self-contained community which supported hundreds of craftspeople. Well-known names such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Stickley and Dard Hunter, were highly influential to the Roycrofters and the Arts and Crafts Movement in America. The Roycroft community became the mecca for those interested in the Arts and Crafts movement and in 1905 the Roycroft Inn was opened to accommodate the thousands of people who journeyed there.

From there, we headed to my cousin Debbie’s house, where her daughters Morgan and Taylor, dog Lucy, and husband Jeff welcomed us. My parents Dennis and Joan had driven from Michigan to meet us there (they couldn’t wait until the Michigan leg of our tour next month!) Thanks to my creative mother, everyone was wearing Expat Harem t-shirts in order to welcome us in festive spirit!


Downhome Reception in Upstate New York

Anastasia’s long-time friend Andrea Bucci (mentioned in Anastasia’s tale) was kind enough to invite us to stop over in her town of Marcellus, situated among the forests and farmland outside of Syracuse, New York. We stopped there 2 nights for some much needed R & R.

Andrea took us to see the neighboring town of Skaneateles, centered around a finger lake of the same name. The small village with its luxurious spa and resorts is known as a weekend getaway for the rich and famous. According to Frommers, in recent years it gained a considerable amount of attention when President and Mrs. Clinton vacationed there.

Due to the unique pronunciation of the town’s name, all morning long until we passed Skaneateles’ welcome sign, I was under the mistaken impression that Andrea was taking us to see “Skinny Alice”, assuming she was referring to a friend of hers! (The town’s Iroquois name is pronounced more like "skinny atlas", according to locals).

We were surprised to see the color of the lake was a shade of turquoise not unlike the Turkish riviera! It shouldn’t have been a shock, as Skaneateles is known to have the cleanest water of all the “lower 48” states.

We ate lunch at the Blue Water Grill before stopping at the local bookstore, Creekside Books. When speaking with the staff of the store about our book and tour, we learned that one of the employees, Delores Brosnan, was a former faculty member of SUNY Purchase, and friend of Zehra Arat, a Political Science scholar and early supporter of Expat Harem.

That evening, Andrea hosted a 10-person friends and family reception of the book and we enjoyed meeting the folks of Marcellus in the eclectic atmosphere of Andrea’s charmingly remodeled 1800s farmhouse.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Call of the Open Road

We are a mobile touring unit now! We have our wheels, which has made our office ambulatory; our laptop is connected to the car’s cigarette lighter and our wireless PC card streams broadband access to us from to T-Mobile’s satellite internet service (in theory, at least). While one of us navigates the roads, the other updates the blog as we tear up the highway.

We are now passing through the fifth state of our tour. Before halting for a few days in Syracuse, New York, we made an impromptu stop in the former silk-producing town of Paterson, New Jersey, a town now so filled with Turkish people that half of the shops on Main Street have Turkish names. We stopped in a corner market that felt just like Istanbul with so many Turkish products on its shelves-- in fact it was called Istanbul II! We also met Ismail Bey at Turkiyem Video & Electronic, a store of Turkish music, books, and Turkophile memorabilia. Ismail was kind enough to display our promotional postcards and even buy two copies of our book, one for his sister (Happy Birthday, Burcu!) and one for his friend Gulserin. We were happy to have our first Turkish meal in USA at Toros Restaurant across the street. Azize, our waitress and a Turk from Thrace, sent us on our way with friendly kisses and a dish of borek!


Conde Nast, GalleyCat, Turkish Hour TV

We had a busy day Monday the 17th, flitting between media meetings...

We had a "haute" lunch at the stylish cafeteria of the Conde Nast headquarters in Times Square, designed by Frank Gehry.

Afterwards, we met with Ron Hogan, editor of Media Bistro’s publishing blog GalleyCat for an interview in the unusual and historic location of Nat Sherman’s 1930s humidor lounge.

To cap off the day, we smiled pretty for the TV cameras as Serdar Acar of Turkish Hour queried us amid the tulip beds on Park Avenue.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


USA's Smallest State Gives EH a Huge Welcome!

Thank you to Sarah Zacks of Books on the Square in Providence Rhode Island for kicking off the first of EH's public book tour events with Saturday, April 15th's reading and signing!

And thank you to the more than 40 people who came to our reading today, despite the gorgeous sunny 75 degree weather and the Passover/Easter holidays this weekend.

And thank you to the five women who fought their way out of Boston on a gridlocked Boston Marathon weekend to come to our reading.

Anassa kata” to four of Anastasia’s fellow Bryn Mawr alumnae (classes ’86-’95) who were there, too!

In addition, we were happy to see a number of people from Providence’s vibrant Turkish community who rushed from a Turkish society meeting to make sure they had the chance to meet us before our event was over. Thanks to Ismail Saltuk of Nuance Gifts who bought 4 copies of EH, one for each of the women in his immediate family!

What can we say? We are elated that so many people came to join us today! From the seven year olds to the seventy year olds, you were all so energized and active an audience—even the one dog in attendance listened raptly as we read Claire Uhr’s story Rescued By Village Intelligence!

For the smallest state in the union, Rhode Island sure showed us a great turnout and a hospitable welcome, with Americans, Turks, Britons, and Pakistanis packing the bookstore and even sitting on the floor when we ran out of chairs.

We’re only sorry that Books on the Square sold out of books for you, but for those of you in Providence (including the group soon to take the Steps of St. Paul’s Tour in Turkey) we did leave Sarah with many signed bookplates for the impending arrival of her next order of EH books.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Expat Harem Officially Launched by NYC Turkish Consulate

Expat Harem was launched in style Thursday, April 13th at an evening reception sponsored by Ömer and Meltem Önhon, New York City’s Turkish Consul General and Cultural Attache respectively. We were joined by our literary agent Jonathan Lyons of McIntosh & Otis, as well as EH contributor Mahira Afridi-Perese and her husband Alan who flew in from Istanbul for the event.

The crowd of more than 80 people included members of Turkish press agencies, Turkish American magazines, Ottoman studies scholars, New York publishing professionals, writers, and Turkophiles of all description.

Specifically, we were honored to have among our guests Dr. William Blair, editor of the Turkish Studies Association Journal who traveled up from Princeton for the event; Hüseyin Ünver, the president of EXSA Americas, and his wife Dianna (EXSA, Sabancı Holding's trading and development portal to the Americas, and Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan are our New York City tour sponsors); Rana Şenol of ABC News; Lorna Graham from NBC Dateline; Nafiz Albayrak, foreign correspondent for Doğan News Agency; Carrie Tuhy, founder of InStyle and RealSimple magazines; Katherine Bang, photo editor at Vanity Fair magazine; Victoria Rowan, artistic programmer for the Tisch Center for the Arts at the 92nd Street Y; Şenay Meryem Ataselim, President of the Moon and Stars Project; Bircan Ünver, founder and president of the Light Millennium art forum; Friends of Anatolia founding president Demet Yezgi; Cemil Özyurt, editor of TurkofAmerica magazine; Angela Doğançay, curator of the Doğançay Museum in Istanbul; Rafi Zabor, PEN/Faulkner award-winning author of The Bear Comes Home; Elisabeth Robinson, best-selling author of The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters; and the husband of Şirin Devrim, notable Turkish star and the author of A Turkish Tapestry, the memoir of an illustrious Ottoman family.

After introducing ourselves, our book, and the story of its creation, we had a lively discussion with audience members sharing their reactions to the book and others asking about our influences and process. We were touched by the comment of one Turkish audience member who said he was using Expat Harem to teach his American-born children about their own culture...

We were thrilled that the US tour for this American project born on Turkish soil was launched on the one piece of soil in New York City that is Turkish. Our heartfelt gratitude to Ömer and Meltem Önhon for honoring us with this privilege!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


EH Editors Hit the Road! US Book Tour Begins...

It's the Expat Harem Spring 2006 US Book Tour! Tomorrow Anastasia and I will be flying in to New York from Istanbul to travel coast to coast across America for the next six weeks-- we may even be coming to your city!

We're looking forward to meeting our readers and supporters in 10 states and 20 cities on our 9,000 mile route as we introduce the American public to our slice of Turkish life at book readings, receptions, cultural festivals, and academic conferences.

We hope to regularly update our blog, if not our website, as often as we can while on the road, so check back with us often.

EH Tale of Turkish Shamanism Featured on THE WORLD & I

The World & I, an educational website to which 10,000 schools subscribe, features an excerpt of Annie Prior Ozsarac's EVIL EYE EXORCISM story in the April 2006 issue of their Culture section's Crossroads column. Teachers will use Annie's tale in the classroom to illustrate culture and folk wisdom.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sabanci Supports Expat Harem

We had a wonderful show of support from Demet Sabanci Cetindogan this week.

Demet Hanim, Vice President of BOSSA's Board of Directors and Vice President of TIKAD (Association of Turkish Businesswomen) has offered to offset portions of our Expat Harem tour in New York. We are grateful for her sincerity and her willingness to assist!

The Sabanci family owns the second largest holding company in Turkey, comprised of 64 companies with consolidated annual revenues in excess of $8 billion. As a family who played a substantial role in the initial industrialization of the nation, their stake in Turkey--and by extension the country's global image-- is significant.

Thank you, Demet Hanim!

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