Book Review: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey by Özge Samanci
In Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey, Özge Samanci narrates her quest for identity. She says, “Finally I found my identity” when she began school and wishes to wear her school uniform to every event, even to a relative’s wedding (12). She discusses falling in love with her teacher (17) and the difficulties of believing differently from what she was taught in school: that she did not want to be a soldier for Turkey (24). Much of the book deals with the narrator’s mishaps as a child and her continued search for herself as a student in high school and college, but it also relates the quirkiness of her family, such as when her dad bought a plastic bucket to test a diving mask (80-1). The book also discusses her parents’ secret leftist beliefs (46) and their relatively poorer financial situation (85) as teachers.
Samanci’s most poignant interchanges may just be when she talks to her picture of Jaques Cousteau (104) and how she suppresses her identity by covering up his photo with the periodic chart (104) to try to fit in because “the chorus” of her life is to “First get admitted to a prestigious university” (108). Still, though, she “felt like a cat in a dog school” (148). Years later, after talking to her Jacques Cousteau poster, the narrator realizes that her identity is a mixture of being a wanderer like her uncle, of desiring security like her dad, of loving academia like her sister, and of needing protection from her mom (180). She says the noise of everyone else’s needs and desires quieted her own voice (181). Her friends help her realize that she needs to silence her dad’s pessimistic voice and listen to her mom’s optimistic voice, not as a way to harm her relationship with her father but as a means of becoming what her class notes told her she wanted to be: an artist (184-5).
Identity is a key issue for adolescents. Any student who questions his/her identity, which is pretty much every student, should read this graphic novel as it traces the fears a child may have about being different but positively points to how one can choose a path. In fact, the beautiful illustrations invite everyone to read it. As an adult who pretty much knows who she is, I found the text illuminating (pun not intended) regarding historical and cultural events in Turkey and thoroughly enjoyed rereading the text and artwork. Samanci’s illustrations hold hidden gems for all readers. (422 words)
Samanci, Özge. Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey. Farrar Straus Giroux: Margaret Ferguson Books, 2015.