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A fiercely imaginative debut story collection by “a startling talent who can seemingly do anything” (Anthony Marra) explores the lives of ordinary people in Turkey to reveal how even individual acts of resistance have extraordinary repercussions.
“No recent collection has captivated me as much as I Am My Country. You must read it!”—Andrew Sean Greer
Spanning decades and landscapes, from the forests along the Black Sea to the streets of Istanbul, Kenan Orhan’s playful stories conjure dreamlike worlds—of talking animals, flying houses, and omniscient prayer-callers—to examine humanity’s unfaltering pursuit of hope in even the darkest circumstances.
A determined florist trains a neighborhood stray dog to blow up a corrupt president. A garbage collector finds banned instruments—and later, musicians—in the trash and takes them home to form a clandestine orchestra in her attic. A smuggler risks his life to bring a young woman claiming to be pregnant via immaculate conception across the border with Syria. A poor cage-maker tries to use his ability to talk to birds to woo his childhood love just before the 1955 Istanbul pogrom. These characters are united by a desperate yearning to break free from the volatile realities they face: rising authoritarianism, cultural and political turmoil, and staggering violence.
Ranging from the absurd to the tenderhearted, the stories in I Am My Country illuminate the constant force amid one country’s history of rampant oppression and revolutionary progress: the impulse to survive.
About the Author
Kenan Orhan is a Turkish American writer and a recipient of the O. Henry Prize. His stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, The Common, and elsewhere, and have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories. Orhan received his MFA from Emerson College and lives in Kansas City. I Am My Country is his first book.
“Orhan’s talents are immense, and the full glory of his storytelling is on display.”—Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less Is Lost
“A collection like I Am My Country is a cause for rejoicing. Orhan has a knife-sharp sense of the human impulse for freedom and hope, even amid moments of oppression and displacement.”—Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
“Moving between the real and the fantastic, the comic and the tragic, these magnificent tales create a complex portrait of Turkey’s past, present, and future. Orhan is a startling talent who can seemingly do anything.”—Anthony Marra, author of Mercury Pictures Presents
“A remarkable literary debut . . . These stories have the force of truth and the lasting power of fable.”—Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of American Estrangement “Wise, surreal, and sublimely wrought . . . You will leave each story feeling subtly rearranged and longing to return.”—Violet Kupersmith, author of Build Your House Around My Body
“A superb collection that overflows with lustrous prose and unflinching insight into the ways in which the human heart and mind push back against oppression.”—Anjali Sachdeva, author ofAll the Names They Used for God
“These characters’ fight to maintain normalcy in the face of uncertainty feels poignantly timely. Small, human-scale acts of bravery color Orhan’s world, while the consequences of apathy haunt it.”—Maria Reva, author of Good Citizens Need Not Fear
“Imaginative, inquisitive, and empathetic, offering a view of recent Turkish history through the vantage point of individual yearning.”—Ayşegül Savaş, author of White on White
“Brimming with wisdom and singular lyricism . . . These characters will steal your heart.”—Mina Seçkin, author of The Four Humors “Brilliant, vividly imagined, and incredibly inventive . . . a true delight to read.”—Omer Friedlander, author of The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land
“A fearless portrait of Turkey . . . Each story contains a world in which the reader immerses so fully that they will be reluctant to leave.”—Ayşe Papatya Bucak, author of The Trojan War Museum: and Other Stories
“[A] rich debut . . . This is an impressive take on the wonders, terrors, and mundanities faced by those living under repression or political instability.”—Publishers Weekly
“Orhan’s incisive and often improbable stories are more than parables, though there’s plenty of allusion and allegory tucked into the prose; they’d surely earn him jail time at home. . . . Deliberately paced, provocative stories that play on the many faces of fear and trembling.”—Kirkus Reviews