Review: Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey, by Özge Samanci


 

Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey felt like it should have been a longer tale. Özge Samanci’s early ears are richly detailed; as the protagonist ages, though, the granularity of the narrative stretches out, with discrete events replaced by more overarching sketches of longer periods of time and emotion. This may simply be an artifact of memory: disjointed and episodic recollections of early years giving way to more comprehensive understandings of later phases of life. This flow breaks down, though, near the end of the book when Özge decides to break with her and her father’s expectations to pursue a career more meaningful to her. She reaches her decision point, but the audience is left with an inspiring moral on the virtue of risk-taking, but little evidence apart from the book in their hands as to how it unfolded for the protagonist.
The narrative is snappy and funny, with an informed but child’s-eye view of the dynamics of Turkish society in the waning days of the Cold War. Quite interesting are the hints and mentions of events and dynamics which go unexplored here, but which tie into well-known historical and current events: Samanci’s elementary-school version of Turkish independence, featuring a map  with a purple blot labelled “Armenian,” a discussion of anti-leftist and -Kurdish censorship sprees by authorities, and a confrontation with a devout Muslim student illustrating the relatively elite, western, and minority perspective of the author’s experience.  The quirks and strange perceptions of childhood are brought to life by Samanci’s fluid line, spare watercolor, and charming mixed media collages at the opening of most chapters. This is a graphic novel with precious few hard-edged panels. Scenes take place in isolated vignettes floating in whitespace or splashed across an entire page, but never does a full page of conventional rectangles appear. Never does this hinder the flow of the story; rather, while Samanci’s figures and faces are simple and expressive, her layouts add dimension and energy, practically dragging the eye across the varied spreads.