cover image I Am My Country: And Other Stories

I Am My Country: And Other Stories

Kenan Orhan. Random House, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-44946-2

Orhan considers gender roles and political conflict in Turkey in his rich debut collection. In “The Beyoglu Municipality Waste Management Orchestra,” a highlight among several magical realist stories, an authoritarian government decrees that all music be performed with “uniquely Turkish instruments,” after which a garbagewoman rescues the discarded instruments of a composer, then the composer himself as well as the members of an orchestra, and keeps them in her attic. In the offbeat and affecting “The Stray of Ankara,” a middle-aged florist chafes against president Recep Erdoğ an’s contention that “childish women are deficient and incomplete,” and devises a plan to assassinate him with the help of a stray dog. Less captivating is “Festival of Bulls,” in which Orhan uses the narrator to decry toxic masculinity and imperialism; her older brother is a “domineering... brute behind a mask of Western ideas.” In the most assured entry, a boy trains for a swimming race and hopes to win a scholarship and escape from his mining town, with its “coal-stained children like feral dogs through the streets.” Orhan wonderfully describes the young man’s range of emotions—confusion, resolve, selfishness, grief, self-disgust—after he faces an impossible dilemma. This is an impressive take on the wonders, terrors, and mundanities faced by those living under repression or political instability. (Apr.)