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“Resident Aliens”

Locating Turkish American Literature Beyond Hyphenated American Fiction

Elena Furlanetto

Pages 181 - 202


The notion of “Turkish-American Literature” has been employed to address the work of first- and second-generation migrants that went from Turkey to the United States, such as Shirin Devrim, Selma Ekrem, and Elif Batuman. This designation characterizes Turkish American literature as fiction written by Americans of Turkish descent and collocates it within the hyphenated canon of American literature. By laying emphasis on migration and life writing as the two essential features of binational writing, scholars of this field have denied the “Turkish American” status to works in English by Turkish authors who were neither born in the United States nor resided there permanently, but nevertheless succeeded in establishing a shared Turkish American literary universe without drawing from the repertoire of the American immigrant story. Their experience in the United States was often one of comings and goings, which led them to return to and settle in Istanbul. This article argues that the label of Turkish American literature can be extended beyond the sphere of immigrant life writing to works in English that do not qualify as what is generally understood as ethnic fiction. The texts examined in this article— Hadibe Edip’s autobiographical volume The Turkish Ordeal (1928), Guneli Gun’s ‚On the Road to Baghdad‘ (1991), and Elif Shafak’s ‚The Bastard of Istanbul‘ (2007)—qualify as Turkish American and are in fact of great relevance to American Studies because they engage in an intense dialogue with the United States on the level of form, content, and politics.


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