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Cultural Ambassador from Turkey

Selma Ekrem’s Life Journey

Hanna Wallinger

Pages 121 - 138


Selma Ekrem (1902-1986) is a first-generation Turkish-American writer. Drawn by a lure of adventure, a quest for personal freedom, and a lifestyle that she did not find in Turkey, she traveled to the United States for the first time in 1924. In her early career in the United States and after the publication of her autobiography ‚Unveiled‘, Ekrem adopted the role of a Turkish cultural ambassador. As an immigrant writer, she never questioned her growing Americanization, and in her frequent travels to Turkey, she demonstrated that her point of view had become increasingly American rather than Turkish. She published about 280 essays in the ‚Christian Science Monitor‘, a historical and personal book called ‚Turkey Old and New‘, and a book for children, ‚Turkish Fairy Tales‘. This essay argues that, as an “ethnic” autobiographer and lecturer, Ekrem explains her country of origin to non-Turkish readers in her work and seeks to show them the wonders of a far-away nation and its potential for Western-style modernization. Several newspaper essays, which have only become available recently, prove that she had to follow certain rules of Orientalism in order to become a successful lecturer. An analysis of her later publications demonstrates that her undertaking of life writing continues through her essays and later books.


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