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Born in London to a Turkish mother and British father, Alev Scott moved to Istanbul to discover what it means to be Turkish in a country going through rapid political and social change, with an extraordinary past still linked to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and an ever more surprising present under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. From the European buzz of modern-day Consta Born in London to a Turkish mother and British father, Alev Scott moved to Istanbul to discover what it means to be Turkish in a country going through rapid political and social change, with an extraordinary past still linked to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and an ever more surprising present under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. From the European buzz of modern-day Constantinople to the Arabic-speaking towns of the south-east, Turkish Awakening investigates mass migration, urbanisation and economics in a country moving swiftly towards a new position on the world stage. This is the story of discovering a complex country from the outside-in, a candid account of overturned preconceptions and fresh understanding. Relating wide-ranging interviews and colourful personal experience, the author charts the evolving course of a country bursting with surprises - none more dramatic than the unexpected political protests of 2013 in Taksim Square, which have brought to light the emerging demands of a newly awakened Turkish people. Mass migration, urbanisation and a growing awareness of human rights have changed the social, economic and physical landscapes of a powerful country, and the 2013 protests were just one indication of the changes afoot in today's Turkey. Threatened as it is by recent developments in Syria and Iraq and the approaching danger of ISIS. Encompassing topics as varied as Aegean camel wrestling, transgender prostitution, politicised soap operas and riot tourism, this is a revelatory, at times humorous, at times moving, portrait of a country which is coming of age.


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Born in London to a Turkish mother and British father, Alev Scott moved to Istanbul to discover what it means to be Turkish in a country going through rapid political and social change, with an extraordinary past still linked to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and an ever more surprising present under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. From the European buzz of modern-day Consta Born in London to a Turkish mother and British father, Alev Scott moved to Istanbul to discover what it means to be Turkish in a country going through rapid political and social change, with an extraordinary past still linked to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and an ever more surprising present under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. From the European buzz of modern-day Constantinople to the Arabic-speaking towns of the south-east, Turkish Awakening investigates mass migration, urbanisation and economics in a country moving swiftly towards a new position on the world stage. This is the story of discovering a complex country from the outside-in, a candid account of overturned preconceptions and fresh understanding. Relating wide-ranging interviews and colourful personal experience, the author charts the evolving course of a country bursting with surprises - none more dramatic than the unexpected political protests of 2013 in Taksim Square, which have brought to light the emerging demands of a newly awakened Turkish people. Mass migration, urbanisation and a growing awareness of human rights have changed the social, economic and physical landscapes of a powerful country, and the 2013 protests were just one indication of the changes afoot in today's Turkey. Threatened as it is by recent developments in Syria and Iraq and the approaching danger of ISIS. Encompassing topics as varied as Aegean camel wrestling, transgender prostitution, politicised soap operas and riot tourism, this is a revelatory, at times humorous, at times moving, portrait of a country which is coming of age.

30 review for Turkish Awakening: A Personal Discovery of Modern Turkey

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    This book has really gone in deep to the Turkish lifestyle and political system. Alev Scott has written a wonderful piece including music, TV dramas, the education system and various points on how Turkey differs from England. She has gone into the political scene with a bit of an objective view then turned subjective as she has experienced the Gezi Park herself. The book has resonated with me on a different level as I am Turkish but also a double citizen and have experienced both sides of the sp This book has really gone in deep to the Turkish lifestyle and political system. Alev Scott has written a wonderful piece including music, TV dramas, the education system and various points on how Turkey differs from England. She has gone into the political scene with a bit of an objective view then turned subjective as she has experienced the Gezi Park herself. The book has resonated with me on a different level as I am Turkish but also a double citizen and have experienced both sides of the spectrum England and Turkey. Scott has really managed to not leave anything out and make valid comparisons between the two and created a beautifully written novel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    مروان البلوشي

    الكاتبة بريطانية لكن أمها تركية، عادت لتركيا لكي تعمل هناك مؤقتاً كمدرسة للأدب الإنجليزي في احدى جامعات اسطمبول. الكتاب لطيف ولكنه لم يأتي بأي جديد. كل ما كتبته المؤلفة سبق أن كتبه آخرون. أسلوبها لطيف وقصصي، وحاولت أت تغطي قطاعات مختلفة من الحياة التركية مثل الاقتصاد والسياسة والأقليات وأحداث حديقة جيزي 2013. خلاصة الكتاب هي أن : تركيا بلد معقد للغاية، ينتظره مستقبل حاسم.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    interesting book looking at the author discovering modern turkey through her travels and conversations and her own Turkish heritage as turkey can be many things to different people

  4. 4 out of 5

    Myles

    As a tourist to Turkey this summer, I didn’t have a great opportunity to engage in many deep conversations with Turks much as I tried. But Turks were pretty open about their dissatisfaction with their current national leader and his government. In this book, Alev Scott helps me understand why. But she does much more to give me the “head space” that animates Turks today. She helps me understand Turks feelings about what membership in the EU would mean to Turks, who are the rich and who are the poor, As a tourist to Turkey this summer, I didn’t have a great opportunity to engage in many deep conversations with Turks much as I tried. But Turks were pretty open about their dissatisfaction with their current national leader and his government. In this book, Alev Scott helps me understand why. But she does much more to give me the “head space” that animates Turks today. She helps me understand Turks feelings about what membership in the EU would mean to Turks, who are the rich and who are the poor, and where does religious observance fit into their lives. Again, I’m sorry to say, I have a few minor quibbles. Scott castigates the Turkish as a nation of copiers, and on the one hand I completely agree. I purchased a ripoff suitcase at a bazaar that lasted not even one day of minor flights by Turkish Airlines before two of the three handles broke off and the wheels stopped working. However, Scott complains that Turks have not designed a new car since the 1980’s. That may be, but my own home country, Canada, is in a similar boat, as are about 100 other countries. Car and cellphone manufacturing is dominated by industrial giants. It’s no great shame nor surprise that a developing country like Turkey doesn’t do it. But times could change. I also found Scott sometimes using an amateur psychologizing as a shorthand to explain things she doesn’t want to spend time understanding.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Youri

    Not a bad book, but I already knew most if not all of what she had written about. I do not recommend this book for anyone that has already read a few books on the topic or who has been to Turkey many times, but it serves, however, as a quick introduction to Turkey. One point to consider about the author's writing style, she covers the topics rather hurriedly. This can be either good or bad depending on your preference. I wish, however, that she had delved a little bit deeper into certain topics. Not a bad book, but I already knew most if not all of what she had written about. I do not recommend this book for anyone that has already read a few books on the topic or who has been to Turkey many times, but it serves, however, as a quick introduction to Turkey. One point to consider about the author's writing style, she covers the topics rather hurriedly. This can be either good or bad depending on your preference. I wish, however, that she had delved a little bit deeper into certain topics. So this is my sole criticism when it comes to her writing style. Sometimes she would start a chapter about A and then linger a few pages about B, then about C to finally return to her main point. In the end I wasn't sure how many stars to give. 2 or 3. I went for 2, which might seem like a harsh rating but to the contrary to what the rating may suggest it was not a boring read, considering that I never finish other books which I do not find amusing. Furthermore I would consider reading another book of this author. Conclusion: a good book for people with little to no knowledge of the country. It covers most of Turkey's recent history and it gives many insights.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Creighton

    Fascinating read by a British-Turkish expat on developments in Turkey over the last several years that is almost a cautionary tale on where America may be headed if we are not careful. When I lived in Istanbul in the 90s, talk of a “Deep State” was not uncommon, but now conspiracy theories have gotten so rampant that Turks aren’t sure what to believe. Conversations of the prime minister (now president) caught on tape talking about bribes and other illegal schemes are not believed by his supporter Fascinating read by a British-Turkish expat on developments in Turkey over the last several years that is almost a cautionary tale on where America may be headed if we are not careful. When I lived in Istanbul in the 90s, talk of a “Deep State” was not uncommon, but now conspiracy theories have gotten so rampant that Turks aren’t sure what to believe. Conversations of the prime minister (now president) caught on tape talking about bribes and other illegal schemes are not believed by his supporters despite the convincing physical evidence. Ordinary citizens protesting things as simple as the government plan to develop a cherished public park are branded as “terrorists”. The government has legal access to your social media history and can ban any site at any time without going to court. The country has more journalists imprisoned than any other country in the world. She ends her book with a note of hope however, which I am hopeful will also be the case in the US. An energetic generation of young people of Turkey will soon come of age and move past the last century stilted by doctrinaire Kemalists and overbearing and corrupt AKP officials.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Grunewald

    I read this in Turkey, wanting to understand the country, but without having to read a heavy historical or political non-fiction tome, which I am not good at! This was ideal, a social exploration of Turkey, based around the Gezi park protests. Chapters covered all sorts - gender and sexual politics, media, the rise of Erdogan - which I am quite fascinated by, the Turks' nationalistic pride, - all from the perspective of a British born woman, born to Turkish parents, who decides to go and experie I read this in Turkey, wanting to understand the country, but without having to read a heavy historical or political non-fiction tome, which I am not good at! This was ideal, a social exploration of Turkey, based around the Gezi park protests. Chapters covered all sorts - gender and sexual politics, media, the rise of Erdogan - which I am quite fascinated by, the Turks' nationalistic pride, - all from the perspective of a British born woman, born to Turkish parents, who decides to go and experience life in all of its East/West contradictions, there for herself. Her style was highly readable, funny at times and, for me, the ideal way of learning through personal experiences and anecdotes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aisyah Samuin

    Turkey is one of my dream travel destination but I must be honest that my intention is purely romanticized by the story of its beauty; the land, the people, the culture, the architecture, the food, the leadership and other touristy templates and scripts we wanderlusters hear about. I try to find a way to justify my innate admiration over Turkey, hence this book. I did not expect to read a personal narrative that is very much opposed to what I originally thought of Turkey. I don't disagree 100% wi Turkey is one of my dream travel destination but I must be honest that my intention is purely romanticized by the story of its beauty; the land, the people, the culture, the architecture, the food, the leadership and other touristy templates and scripts we wanderlusters hear about. I try to find a way to justify my innate admiration over Turkey, hence this book. I did not expect to read a personal narrative that is very much opposed to what I originally thought of Turkey. I don't disagree 100% with the author however I can safely conclude that we belong to the opposite camp of thoughts. This has been a refreshing take on the political and cultural in Turkey and I very much enjoyed it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Abdul

    In this wonderfully written book on modern Turkey, Alev Scott introduces the audience to a rapidly changing nation caught at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. The book was written before the major overhaul of the governance system after the July 2016 'coup' that has led to a significant change in Turkish body-politic. However, the book still holds its own when dealing with non-political topics.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Güvenç Altaş

    It is great to read interesting topics of Turkey from a British born Turkish journalist.Even she aimed to stay objective on most of the topics due to her short time spent in community she could not managed this.Anyway I hope more people follow Alev Scoutt and let us to have different perspectives on constructive interpretion.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric Randolph

    Fine for what it is, which is essentially an extended Lonely Planet introduction for newcomers, but sadly devoid of people and places.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christa Eker

    re-read - just as enjoyable 4* I liked it

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Morrow

    In her introduction, Alev Scott states that Turkish Awakening is as much about her personal discovery of the land of her mother’s birth as it is an exploration of contemporary Turkish life and politics, and she is true to her word. She skilfully combines personal insights with an objective gaze to focus on a confusing and often contradictory culture, teasing out a much fuller picture of Turkey than is usually offered. As a result Scott goes beyond the overused East meets West paradigm usually ap In her introduction, Alev Scott states that Turkish Awakening is as much about her personal discovery of the land of her mother’s birth as it is an exploration of contemporary Turkish life and politics, and she is true to her word. She skilfully combines personal insights with an objective gaze to focus on a confusing and often contradictory culture, teasing out a much fuller picture of Turkey than is usually offered. As a result Scott goes beyond the overused East meets West paradigm usually applied to writing about Turkey, to try to unravel the complex relationship between modernity and religion which is so much a feature of daily life in Istanbul. I particularly liked her chapter titled ‘Conversations with Taxi Drivers’. As a long term resident of the city, with reasonable Turkish, I’ve come to know that if you want the low down of what’s going on, your local taxi driver is a great source of information. Scott goes well beyond what I’ve ever managed to find out, and reveals some surprising facts about Istanbul and its inhabitants. From this first chapter she goes on to detail the ‘village in the city’ nature of many Istanbul neighbourhoods. Most surprising is the way prostitution and transgender inhabitants coexist, albeit sometimes uneasily, alongside their devout Muslim neighbours who have relocated from the country. She goes on to explore the influence of popular soap operas featuring the new rich, living in ostentatiously flashy homes most Turks can only dream of, and the way these surreal stories have brought Arab tourists to Turkey in search of their new heroes and heroines. She even writes about her experiences teaching in a highly regarded government university. Through her experience, we see how the respect with which teachers are regarded in Turkey clashes with low salaries, a serious lack of resources and students whose primary aim in learning is to know only the answers to the exam questions and nothing more. Indepth academic research is shunned in favour of multiple choice based exams, and excellence for its own sake has become a sad remnant of a distant past. The book is rounded out by looking at Turkey’s changing relationship with the EU, no longer seen as a positive aspiration, and the rise and rise of the ruling Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (AKP – Party for Justice and Progress). Having initially been seen as a praiseworthy example of moderate Islam, Scott reveals how the AKP is now seen as the harbinger of a darker future facing Turkey. Many of her observations were made against the backdrop of the 2013 Gezi Park protests. During that summer Istanbul, Ankara, Eskisehir and numerous other Turkish cities saw extraordinary displays of public unity against what many saw as an increasingly Draconian government. Scott captures the vitality and hope of those days brilliantly, but her perspective is very much coloured by being in that particular moment. Consequently the book ends on a high which could be misleading to readers unaware of more recent Turkish history. Granted, Scott does offer some analysis of events from the perspectives of supporters of Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic, as well as those who continue to support the AKP. However I suspect she might offer a significantly different take on events were she to rewrite the final chapter now. Nonetheless this is a seriously good read which will see you turning the pages non-stop until you reach the end. Scott gives us fascinating glimpses into her personal experiences in Istanbul and Turkey, breathing fresh life into modern history so that we live and feel it as we read. Turkish Awakening A Personal Discovery of Modern Turkey is one of the most engaging histories of contemporary life in Turkey I have read for a long time. I highly recommend it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Omar Taufik

    I have to admit I really enjoyed reading this wonderful book. The author demonstrated great talent in the writing and wide knowledge of the subject. As mentioned by the author, the book is not actually a book on politics although politics and some history is also discussed throughout the book but within a social context. The book actually reflects the social nature of the Republic of Turkey with it's various diversities and recent developments. A great number of subjects were covered including verb I have to admit I really enjoyed reading this wonderful book. The author demonstrated great talent in the writing and wide knowledge of the subject. As mentioned by the author, the book is not actually a book on politics although politics and some history is also discussed throughout the book but within a social context. The book actually reflects the social nature of the Republic of Turkey with it's various diversities and recent developments. A great number of subjects were covered including verbal and body language , religion and female issues to ethnic and religious relations with questions of identity , business and money, urbanisation and the environment, media and education, relationship with Europe, finally reaching the scene of the gezi park demonstrations in the summer of 2013 in which the author was an actual real life witness as one of the people ending the book with a fair assessment of the Turkish political scene with it's main parties and leaders. There are numerous real life experiences in this book shared by the author along with some interesting comparisons with British viewpoints in some aspects discussed. I would like to thank the author for this exciting book which I believe she wrote with great passion and love of the society and people of Turkey.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ghengis

    It is very up to date - it includes commentary on the Gezi Park uprising, but consequently will become out of date very quickly. It is very much a personal view, and I fear at times a rather romanticised one - the author is half Turkish and has gone back to Turkey to discover her roots, complete with Turkish boyfriend. She is only 27 and Oxford educated - you get the sense that her journey is a spiffing adventure. My prediction is that when the novelty wears off and she is faced with the long te It is very up to date - it includes commentary on the Gezi Park uprising, but consequently will become out of date very quickly. It is very much a personal view, and I fear at times a rather romanticised one - the author is half Turkish and has gone back to Turkey to discover her roots, complete with Turkish boyfriend. She is only 27 and Oxford educated - you get the sense that her journey is a spiffing adventure. My prediction is that when the novelty wears off and she is faced with the long term reality of living in Turkey as a foreigner, she will come back to England, marry a merchant banker and settle in Godalming. That said the book is well written, an easy read and a helpful introduction to Turkish culture and society.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I enjoyed this account of Modern Turkey, with all its complications and quirks, written from a personal perspective of the author. Definitely amusing and interesting, as well as informative, and written from a generally non-biased point of view as much as possible. An interesting window on a complex country... I also learned a lot I hadn't previously realised about various traditions and courtesies in Turkey/Turkish culture, and I feel more confident that my future travels will Turkey will be en I enjoyed this account of Modern Turkey, with all its complications and quirks, written from a personal perspective of the author. Definitely amusing and interesting, as well as informative, and written from a generally non-biased point of view as much as possible. An interesting window on a complex country... I also learned a lot I hadn't previously realised about various traditions and courtesies in Turkey/Turkish culture, and I feel more confident that my future travels will Turkey will be enriched as a result.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vivek

    An interesting read for a foreigner (Yabanci) living in Turkey. Alev Scott's mother is Turkish but she grew up in London so she brings the external view with some insider perspective. This is more about modern Turkey and the recent changes. The best way in my view is through anecdotes and she peppers her book with many - some which struck a chord. Overall a good book for someone interested in or living in Turkey, though not sure if the locals will find it of much interest.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Gardner

    Very interesting book offering the author's insights into modern Turkey. I knew very little about the country before reading this, but this was an intriguing window into a country which is both ancient and very new at the same time. The author has a Turkish background, but had never lived in Turkey before. The title reflects both her awakening knowledge of Turkey and the awakening of the Turkish opposition movement in Gezi park and elsewhere.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laila

    A very well-written, interesting book for expats living in Turkey, regular travellers to Turkey, businessmen seeking to invest in Turkey, or anyone who wants to get a deeper understanding of modern Turkey.

  20. 5 out of 5

    thestarsailor

    Scott did a good job explaining the different details in Turkey and how the country has developed in recent history. But I read this for a class and I don't think this will have much use outside of it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hafsa Khawaja

    A vibrant and candid snapshot of modern Turkey, highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bredo Erichsen

    The best book I have read to understand Turkish culture. Now I understand much more. A good read for all interested or working in Turkey

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neville

    Good introduction to to Turkey (and to Alev Scott) but a little too lacking in depth.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shriraj

    Good contemporary book which gives an insight in the Turkish society. Some chapters towards the end of the book will get dated quickly as Turkish political situation changes.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Abdullah

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zahir

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Eves

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gul

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christian Gagnon

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

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