According to The GuardianTurkish prosecutors have begun investigations into numerous writers of fiction, including famed author Elif Shafak. The campaign has been described as a serious violation of free speech rights, all breaking off from recent, rather vicious debates on social media about authors who write about difficult topics, such as child abuse and sexual violence. After a page from a new novel Abdullah Sevki was shared on Twitter, the novel quickly generated deep controversy when the chapter showcased featured a first person account of a child being sexual assaulted from a sexual predator’s POV. The government of Turkey has issued a formal complaint to ban the book and has charged Abdullah Sevki with criminal acts such as potential child abuse.
Elif Shafak has described the campaign as a serious attack on free speech, having received thousands of abusive messages about her work published in the last few years, which deals with similar themes. She said her work is intended to put a spotlight on sexual violence in Turkey, especially against children, as Turkish courts have dragged their feet actually investigating reported incidents. She notes that instead of going after real life rapists, the Turkish courts are attacking writers instead, using them as a scapegoat without having to actually investigate the true problem.
Numerous speech organizations are deeply concerned about this campaign against Turkish novelists and have been quoted as saying:
“Freedom of expression in Turkey is increasingly under serious threat. Too many writers are in prison whilst others have been forced into exile.”
Shafak was previously tried for her novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, where she referred to the massacre of Armenians in World War I as a war crime and genocide. Shafak acknowledged that she deals with difficult subjects, such as sexual violence, but does not condone it and does the exact opposite with her work. She further notes she has always been a campaigner for women, children, and minority rights.
The campaign into investigating Shafak and other authors like her is sparking an international debate, both over free speech rights and content allowed in novels. What are your thoughts on this complicated issue? This could be easily be a slippery slope to go down for Turkey as a whole.
Writing a novel is a traumatic experience. Experts agree that the process happens in five distinct stages.
1. Denial and Isolation
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life… For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
Image Via Pando
The writer secludes herself from society. The writer tries to write. She puts words on a page. So many words, yet still too few. It’s common at this beginning stage for the writer to attempt to rationalize why she isn’t writing more. There’s just not enough time in the day or she needed to binge watch the latest Netflix show. The writer lies to herself but she cannot lie to her novel. It sits there, on the screen or typewriter, unfinished. Until one fateful day it is finished.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Image Via Screencraft
It’s garbage. The manuscript is complete garbage. The writer knows he is a hack, a wannabee, a good-for-nothing. The writer gets mad. He tantrums. He throws things. His favorite mug is broken. Now he cannot drink coffee. He shoves his manuscript through a paper shredder. The writer lashes out at friends and family for never supporting his dreams. The writer’s father tells him he should do something practical instead of writing a damn book. The writer fumes.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Image Via Writers Digest
The writer painstakingly reassembles the shreds of paper. Maybe if she rewrote the beginning, middle, and end of her novel it could be good. She secretly prays to a higher authorial power to bestow her manuscript with the spark of genius that she so desperately wishes to possess. The writer makes a few edits, changes her mind, and tries to undo what has already been undone. She tries to save a chapter that she absolutely loves but hurts the story. It’s too late. It’s already gone.
Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.”
Image Via Fantasy-Faction
Sadness. The rejection letters piling up are longer than the manuscript itself. The writer sits at home, more alone than ever, and writes query letter after query letter. Nobody wants his novel. He mopes around the house and thinks about self-publishing. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.”
Image Via Giphy
The sad aspect of this stage is that not every writer gets to this point. An editor or agent somewhere has seen a hint of potential in the manuscript. It has been accepted for publication. The writer is going to get published. The writer is at peace.
Remember last time I shared my serendipitous encounter with new novels on the morning 7 train? One book on the list is Korean American author Min Jin Lee’s best-selling novel Pachinko. Well, the news has just been released that the novel is going to be adapted into TV series!
Pachinko was a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for fiction and was named by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017. Six companies fought for the rights, however in the end, the king of technology－Apple－won, and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the show will be among the most expensive in the TV series history, with a budget similar to Netflix’s The Crown.
Image via Parnassus Musing
Set in the early 20th century, Min Jin Lee describes Sunja, the poor but lovely Korean daughter of the fisherman, who, without warning, falls in love with a rich married man. When she finds out she’s pregnant and the man is married, she cuts off the relationship without hesitation, and moves to Japan with a sick but kindly diplomat. The story focuses on the tough and bloodied history of Korean immigrants in Japan.
Soo Hugh, the Korean American showrunner and screenwriter of The Terror, will take the lead on the screen adaptation, serving as the program leader and producer. The production company will be Media Res, established by Prometheus (2012)’s producer Michael Ellenberg. The TV series will be presented in Korean, Japanese, and English.
I’m glad to see more representations about Asian American communities and their histories, lives, and identities. Will the show be a good adaptation to the original work? Let’s wait and see!
Read articles regarding upcoming Asian American representation:
In 2001, Ann Patchett’s fourth novel Bel Canto amazed readers all around the world. It’s a book about music, love, and politics, set in a South America.The story begins at a birthday party thrown at the vice presidential home in honor of Katsumi Hosokawa, a visiting chairman of a large Japanese company and an opera enthusiast. A famous American soprano Roxane Coss is also invited to perform as the highlight of the night. However, the opera-embroidered night is broken by a break-in by terrorists who take the entire party hostage.
Ann Patchett and the cover of Bel Canto | Image via ProProfs
The appealing plot and Patchett’s skill at describing music make the novel successful. It was awarded both the Orange Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. It was placed on several top book lists, including Amazon’s Best Books of the Year (2001). It was also adapted into an opera in 2015.
Now, the film adaption is going to amaze us again. Directed by Paul Weitz, the movie gathers international cast members including Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe, Demian Bichir, and Ryo Kase. (See the full list of cast here)
Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe, and Demian Bichir | Image via Variety
Movie Poster | Image via IMDb
The trailer moves me with the last scene when Roxanne (Julianne Moore) steps onto the balcony and is ready to sing to the public. I think that will be a powerful moment in which music serves as a language of love and forgiveness.
Patchett’s novel is beloved, but it seems like Weitz won’t be precious about making changes, since even in the relatively short space of the trailer, there’s already one major deviation from the original story. Around 40 seconds in, one of the young terrorists seems to shoot a man, presumably the opera singer’s accompanist, in the chest as he comes in the door; in the novel, the character simply dies from lack of insulin, having failed to disclose that he was a diabetic.
That may seem like a minor detail, but it’s significant, because the accompanist’s death is a major turning point in the story, and if the change is as it appears, then Weitz has turned a tragicomic moment into a purely tragic one. Whether that’s a sign of major tonal changes to the story as a whole or a simple tweak to the plot remains to be seen.
I’m sure this will a fantastic film adaption. See you in the movie theatre on September 14th!
Do you like to read Asian American writing? If you do, YES, you are with me now! If you don’t, OK, this booklist will totally change your vision and life. Three red-letter Asian American writers and their books: Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.
My Year of Meats byRuth Ozeki
Images via Smith College and Goodreads
Ruth Ozeki is a Canadian-American novelist, filmmaker, and Zen priest. Before her writing career, Ozeki had worked in the TV industry for ten years and produced a documentary Halving the Bones (1995). This working experience as a TV producer/documentarian nourishes her writing style. When reading her novels it can feel as though you are watching a movie or TV series because the way some cinematic techniques, such as montage or multi-narratives, have influenced her reflects on page . Topics of her writing ranges from race, gender, environmental crisis, to the aesthetics of Zen.
My Year of Meats, published in 1998, is Ozkei’s second novel. The story starts with Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese-American documentarian, who works for BEEF-EX, a Texas-based meat lobbying firm. Her duty is to produce My American Wife! which is a TV reality show featuring American housewives and her authentic American life, food, and belief. Jane is pressured by the company to promote the advantage of eating beef as a wholesome American lifestyle. However, Jane gradually realizes the unspeakable truth hidden within the meat industry. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, a Japanese housewife Akiko is watching My American Wife! in her Tokyo apartment. She is carefully jotting down the beef diner recipe the TV show introduces because that will also be served as the diner for her husband John Ueno, the executive of BEEF-EX. Akiko has been struggling with infertility however is pressured by John to eat more beef because John believes that “Beef is the Best” and beef can bring them children symboling a traditional American family.
Tropic of Orange byKaren Tei Yamashita
Images via Star Tribune and Amazon
Karen Tei Yamashita is a Japanese-American writer who is a Professor of Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her writing contains huge elements of magical realism and transnational vision. Yamashita’s novels pays attention to the phenomena of polyglot and multicultural communities in an increasingly globalized age. Reading her novels, you may feel like you are cruising a world without boundaries: of race, gender, time, and space.
Published in 1997, Tropic of Orange rewrites how a novel can smash human concepts of geographical, cultural, and temporal limits. The book is set in Los Angels and Mexico with a group of diverse ethnic people dominating each mysterious life. The story covers the span of seven days, with each chapter focusing on specific days and characters. We have Emi, a Japanese-American TV executive, and her lover Gabriel Balboa, a Latino journalist, chasing news in LA. They have a reliable but mysterious source of news: Buzzworm, an African American who roams LA streets offering advice. Gabriel owns a home in Mexico in which a special orange falls from a tree and is picked up by the mystical character Arcangel who carries the fruit across the U.S.- Mexico border and the Tropic of Cancer. With the development of the narratives, we see different lines of story weaving into a unexpected web.
A Little Life byHanya Yanagihara
Images via The Cut and Amazon
Born in Hawaii, Hanya Yanagihara is considered one of the most talented writers in the publishing industry in the last decade. Working as a chief editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, the forty-year-old Yanagihara, without any training in fictional writing, amazed the industry in 2013 with the publication of her first novel The People in the Trees. The novel is based on the real-life case of the virologist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, was praised as one of the best novels of 2013. Though Yanagihara spent sixteen years completing The People in the Trees, she established A Little Life, a novel with the same depth and effort as the first one, in eighteen months. A Little Life was published in 2015 and received a volcano of favorable reviews.
Praised as the greatest gay novel by The Atlantic, the novel portrays the friendship spanning over thirty years of four men who met each other in college, and their homo/heterosexual romance, lost, and anger they experience throughout their lives. Malcolm is an architect; JB is a portrait artist; Willem is an actor; Jude is a lawyer. The story begins with Willem and Jude, both of whom graduated from distinguished university, co-rent a small apartment in New York City: Malcolm and JB, born in rich families, have huge passion for art but feel uncertain about the future. Willem is a poor guy from a farm in the midwest, insisting in acting life in theatre－he feels responsible for these old friends, especially for Jude; Jude is the most successful one among the four－he has a great career as a attorney but, as if his mysterious crippled leg, Jude himself is mysterious too: no one knows his past. With deeper description of Jude, Yanagihara performs how the past tangles with not only Jude’s life but the other three characters.
Featured Image via Ruth Ozeki, Writing like an Asian, and The Cut