Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey by Ozge Samanci

This graphic novel is well done, but I'll have to send it up to the middle school library as it is too young adult for elementary students. Ozge Samanci's minimalist illustrations and dry sense of humor make this an excellent look into what it was like growing up in Turkey. The heart of the story is about Ozge trying to figure out what she wants to do in life and the difficulty of trying to live up to her father's expectations and imitate her brilliant older sister. She recounts the political and cultural upheavals growing up and the dangerous culture she lived in. A near rape, prejudice from extreme ideologies at school, and fierce competition of trying to make it into prestigious schools make this a page turner. Ozge never takes herself too seriously though and the humor and lightness balance out the dark incidents. A terrific read.

Ozge grew up in a middle class family with two parents that were educators and nonreligious. They raised Ozge to be strong and wanted her to have a good job. Getting into the top high schools and universities was competitive and difficult. Ozge chronicles this difficult journey that show flaws in an educational system many will relate too. Her path of self-discovery follows first in her sister's footsteps and she fails, next she tries to follow her father's path and fails, and last she tries to follow her own heart and fails. She never gives up and finds, with the help of family and some loyal friends that help tutor her through her classes so she can pass, that she is able to discover her passion for drawing. It is the failures and resilience to learn from her mistakes that are a part of Ozge's journey of discovering what she wants to do with her life - something we all can relate to. She is one brave person that is easy to cheer on as she works through issues.

The author does a good job explaining the different leaders of the country and how they affected her country. A funny bird crops up on many of these pictures with some wisecrack comment. She shows the leaders saying one thing but doing the opposite in private while the bird hangs upside down on the president's speech bubble saying, "Liar." Later, she's trying to get the courage to tell her mom about her teacher's corporal punishment of all the students in the classroom and the bird is making light of the incident. Ozge is a strong-willed girl willing to stand-up for herself. She's a bit of a loose cannon as a young kid and her yellow hair that shoots out all over the place reflects her high spirits. There are pictures of her friends with rock star posters in their bedroom and Ozge has Jacques Cousteau because she's going to be a famous diver. Later, she humorously "talks" to Poster Jacques trying to sort out what she wants to be in life. The page where she is suspended for speaking her mind at school and criticizing the play chosen for the theater production is a hoot. The close-up photo of the suspension letter with her miniaturized and sliding down its folded edge off the page with the bird and its speech bubble saying, "Bye," is one of my favorites. I'm sure you'll find your favorites too.

5 Smileys

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