Patricia Hruby Powell: Inspirational graphic novel a great gift

Patricia Hruby Powell: Inspirational graphic novel a great gift

"Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey" (Farrar Straus Giroux 2015) by zge Samanci is an inspiring memoir and a more-than-charming graphic novel. It follows and eventually answers the universal questions: What do I want? Who am I? What's more, it reveals another culture — a Middle Eastern culture, a Muslim land — at a time when seeing and understanding others is more important than ever.

Samanci was born in the mid-'70s in the Aegean coastal town of Izmir. When television arrives in the mid-'80s, there is one channel. Samanci sees an underwater Jacques Cousteau special. She's smitten. She decides she will become a scuba diver.

Her father expects better from her. She tries. But there are obstacles. In Turkey, the school system makes the attainment of education challenging, especially if you're not wealthy.

There are deep conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism — Darwin or Allah?

You watch Samanci grow up alongside her smarter, more talented big sister who eventually succeeds in becoming a computer scientist — a prestigious field (although she's not passionate about it). Samanci keeps searching, trying, growing, in spite of these hardships.

I love to read stories from outside my culture. You can't help but compare it to your own. And if you have friends from that other culture, you get to understand and know them better.

In this case, you understand why they might be so knowledgeable. In order to get anywhere in the Turkish education system, you have to learn how to learn. You must pass tests to get to the next level. Test results also decide to which school you will advance and the quality of teaching you will experience.

And you learn about Turkish government and politics. For instance, elementary students in Turkey in the '80s were taught that they should want to die for their former President Ataturk, who was actually a dictator (and who died back in 1938).

Samanci's father wants her to be an engineer. She tries, but she is only advanced into the easier field of mathematics. Easier?

Can Samanci please her father? He's not easily pleased. She hears his voice in her head. It's so loud, she can't hear her own voice. And there's the noise of all those other voices telling her to be an engineer, lawyer, doctor. Her friends ask her: What are you good at? What do you love? Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Samanci falls into a deep depression. What will she do? She tries acting. And fails.

Then her friends see her school notes, where she's doodled around the coffee drips, fingerprints and wrinkles. Thank heavens. You should see them too. Samanci's artwork is sweet, funny and smart. So is her text.

Because this book is so inspiring, you know you have to give it as a gift.

Patricia Hruby Powell is the author of 'Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker.' Her young-adult documentary novel, 'Loving vs. Virginia,' releases in January 2017.

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