Porcelain Moon and Pomegranates: A Woman's Trek Through Turkey by Üstün Bilgen-Reinart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Being methodical feels constricting to me so I avoid it and stick with spontaneity. This includes my selection of reading materials. I go to the library, head for the travel section, start pulling books off the shelf, judge it by its cover, then synopsis, and keep it in my arms or put it back on the shelf after my discerning judgment :). Over the past year I have read some wonderful books that have taught me about places I may never visit. This book, with an unsuspecting cover, an acceptable synopsis, and yet more importantly a travel book written by a women, was left in my arms which was an exceptional choice.
This book was an amazing teaching tool that took me into the depths of thousands of years of history, race relations, conflict, change, and the current lives of many people in Turkey. Of all the travel books I have read in the past year, this is the most moving one from which I feel like learned enough to be a four month university course that I received for free. Lucky me!
Perhaps I feel closer to Ustun because she was born in Turkey, moved to Winnipeg, then returned to Turkey as an adult to learn about her culture all over again. I was born in Calgary, Alberta, but did not live in Canada for any length of time until I was an adult, and I had to learn about my home country year after year when I moved here at the age of eighteen. As well, I am currently living in Winnipeg. An interesting coincidence.
This book is for people who want to learn about the deep moving power of travel, history, worship, cultural change, power structures and their influence, the complicated lives of women, goddesses, and to understand how old some parts of the world truly are, all situate in the context of travel, discovery, and making connections between the past and present. A magnificent read!
I just realized that I will be probably be buying this book. It is so full of information that I am going to want to come back to it a couple of times just to make sure I hear all of its messages. Delightful as it stretched my thinking so very far.
The best parts of the book:
But deep inside me there was a division and there was a loss. There were chambers that had to remain closed. My Anatolian self was suppressed, my memories of that land - its rhythms, its smells, its temperature, its ancient joys and pains (for what is culture if it is not collective memory that is somehow transmitted through the generations?), the pleasure if my mother tongue - all these lay buried under the psychological layers that formed an efficient, adaptive Canadian self. p. 14
Ecological balance represents survival - the human race can't live without air, land and water, I knew that in Canada, too. But it is only here that I begin to discern the relationship between ecological damage and the loss of distant memory. So many layers of civilizations have lived and died here that I feel as if spirits hover over Anatolia. But if their traces are destroyed, if no one remembers those who once lived and died here, we are not even going to know what we have lost...I notice that I often turn to women for stories about taboo themes and about the buried past. It is true that women are the bearers of collective memory? That questions leads me to the issue of the suppression of female voices, female memories, and female sexuality in Anatolia, and I see another connection that should have been obvious all along: the killing of nature and the suppression of ancient memory are related to the silencing of women's voices. Perhaps women could have defended the earth of they hadn't been robbed of power thousands of years ago...On this land at the dawn of history, a different vision taped human societies. An ancient great goddess reigned in Anatolia for thousands of years. The traces of her worship remain all over this mountain our land...People often feel an urge to understand their own past in order to gain insights into the present. I feel complicated to delve into Anatolia's past. A long and loaded human past must affect the people who now live on this land in the same way that a family history going back many generations will affect someone who knows nothing of the secrets bored with those generations. p. 17
Ustun continues to discover the thousands of years of goddess worship, provides a historical context of terrorism and her idea as to why it exists, describes how one religion is replaced by another as one culture is conquered by another group with a different culture, provides the history of prostitution and it modern day experience, explains killing ones daughter in the name of honour and how this practice is changing (a difficult chapter to read), and how the people of Turkey are rising up against Western multi-national companies as they destroy the landscape of the country, take their money and run away. What a read! It won't be the last time I peruse its pages. So much more to understand and learn in the second and third readings.
Find it and learn from the words on its pages.
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