Tuesday, September 12, 2017

So Your Character is From Turkey ... Featuring Leona @ Leona's Blog of Shadows

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Lebanon ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts are as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

I am an IT engineer by day and book reviewer and fantasy writer by night. I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, relocated to San Francisco Bay Area, CA in 1999 for work, relocated to Austin, TX in 2004 and later to San Antonio, TX and became a naturalized US citizen somewhere along the way. I moved to Finland in 2013 where I currently reside and hopefully for good. My main hobbies are medieval re-enaction, fantasy cosplay, sailing, needle crafts, nature photography and drawing. I don't see writing as a hobby, I treat it as my second job. I am working on the first two books of a dark fantasy series loosely based on a medieval Byzantine setting and draws elements from Turkish, Armenian and Mongolian mythologies.

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
I think the most unique thing about Turkey is being home to two powerful empires (Byzantine and Ottman Empires), numerous historical sites include the Neolithic settlements (Çatalhöyük), the magnificent Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, ruins of Troy and a number of places from the Greek mythology such as Mount Ida. Many thousands of years of history and a great many civilizations left their marks there, you will find history around every corner.

Mount Ida
Hagia Sophia
Basilica Cistern
Troy Ruins
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
My favorite places in Turkey are the Aegean coast and the towns along the Lycia Way. Delicious figs and mulberries grow all over the place, and free to pick from the wilderness. Many of the popular Aegean spots are a stone's throw from the Greek Islands and there's regular ferry to the closest ones. The climate is quite variable in Turkey, the Black Sea is sort of like Ireland, with lots of rain and mild temperatures. The Aegean and Mediterranean Coast has no winter and hot summers, eastern Anatolia is mountainous and the snow stays for months in winter and spring. Central Anatolia has super hot summers and harsh winters with snow.

Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
I'm of Black Sea Georgian heritage and was raised with the ethnic Black Sea/Georgian food at home. My mom's green beans with the cilantro-hazelnut paste are my favorite. I also love the lamb ribs. My favorite when it comes to restaurant food is Döner (which is known as Gyros in Greece and Shawarma in Lebanon). My favorite dessert is Kazandibi, a milk-based dessert with caramelized top and rich texture. 

Aegean and Mediterranean regions share many common elements with Greek cuisine and I love the vegetable dishes with olive oil from there. Southeastern region is red meat heavy and very spicy, but I am not a big fan of too spicy food or minced meats. 

Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Slang is very dynamic in Turkey, I have a hard time keeping up with the latest slang over the internet. Turkish is not an Indo-European language, it originates from Asia. There are many loanwords from French, English, Persian, Arabic, and Greek. 

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
A regular day in Istanbul, where I grew up, would be mostly wasted in traffic and long queues. It would be very stressful, doubly so if you don't like loud environments and large crowds. It's simply too crowded to have the concept of personal space. In the southern Aegean and Mediterranean regions, it's too hot, it's only nice if you are on vacation and go swimming every day.  

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
I lived in the States for 15 years so I can compare like no one's business! Turkey is as politically polarized, if not worse, and not just around the election times. Unfortunately, things aren't very stable and everyone is praying it doesn't turn into another Syria. 

There is cultural diversity, you have the westernized secular society in the big cities, Thrace (near Greek border), Aegean Coast. You have the ultra-conservative country culture in Central Anatolia, and you have the secular Alawites in the Southeast along with the radical Muslims. The Black Sea has both historically socialist-atheist zones and conservative Muslim areas. 

I'd say Central Anatolia is the Bible Belt of Turkey and the West Coast is like San Francisco Bay Area. Only the landmass is much, much smaller than the States and all those different segments of the society live in close quarters. Work conditions can be worse than the worst sweatshop, most everyone in the private sector works 6 days a week, 10-12 hour workdays are considered a norm. But the college education is free if you have good enough scores to get into a state university. 

Briefly describe three historical events of your country’s you feel are important.
Turks entering Anatolia in 1071 after the Battle of Manzikert, conquering of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottomans,. fall of the Ottoman Empire after WW1 and the forming of the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923 would be the three pivotal points in Turkey's history.

What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
The whole Arabic desert stereotype featuring dunes, camels, and veils. I've heard it so much when I lived in the States. There's no dessert to speak of, Anatolia has plenty of forests, highlands, and mountains. No one rides camels either, there are a few camels here and there for tourist shows in some southern towns but the majority of the population lives and dies without ever seeing a live camel. And no more veils than say, in New York or any major American city. 

Then there's the Fez wearing Ottoman guy stereotype they frequently feature in books and movies (including the cyberpunk classic Neuromancer) that is from the 18-19th century, a rather short period in thousand of years of history. Every region has different folk attire and none of them feature Fez.

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
I haven't seen any so far, there were some movies filmed in Turkey but it was just the setting and not really showing anything much about the cultures and the people.

Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?

I don't know of any from the Anglosphere, but as far as the local literature and movies go, I can name a few from both. From Turkey, my top three favorites would be 
1.) Keloglan, a mischievous bald boy character from the traditional fairy tales
2.) Inek Saban, silly clown of the class character from a beloved high school comedy film series based on one of the classics of Turkish literature called Hababam Sinifi, and 
3.) Nasreddin Hoca or otherwise known as Molla Nasruddin, a mythical funny character shared in Turkish and Persian cultures (that one is also popular in Iran) who is known by his witty comebacks and the way of teaching wisdom with black humor.

Thank you, Leona, for this very informative post! I hope everyone enjoyed reading it. Come back next week for So Your Character is from Pakistan ...!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Spain, Denmark, Kenya, Argentina, Iraq, and Egypt.

Do you have any characters from Turkey? Did this inspire you to write a Turkish character or set a book in Turkey? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Leona? Be sure to thank her!

You may also like:
So Your Character is From Lebanon ... Featuring Nadwa @ Painfully Fictional & Nicole @ A Dance Between the Pages

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