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Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey

All Özge wants to do when she grows up is be like her scuba-diving hero Jacques Cousteau. Or maybe an actress. Why are there so many obstacles? In her whimsical graphic memoir, Turkish author-illustrator Özge Samanci tells the story of her 1980s childhood in Izmir, Turkey, and later Istanbul, with a charmingly fresh perspective.

Unlike panel-style graphic novels, the playful, inviting pages of Dare to Disappoint are filled with spot illustrations with strategic hints of color, cartoon-bubble dialogue and the occasional photographed collage, pulled together with a brief narrative. The memoir begins when little blonde Özge is six, and she and her mother are using binoculars to watch her older sister, Pelin, at school across the street. "I wanted to be on the other side of the binoculars," writes Özge. In first grade, she instantly falls for the "huge, gorgeous woman" who teaches her students about Turkish history, including the late Atatürk, the "Father of Turks," whose image was plastered everywhere. Özge, a good soldier, begins to revere him, even standing on a chair to pledge her love to his portrait. 

Turkish history, gender studies, polarized politics and religious conflicts are part and parcel of a funny, engaging story that never veers too far from Özge's frank, at-times rebellious, often hilarious point of view on things like smuggled Corn Flakes, playing the Dallas song on a mandolin, and, most poignantly, her and her sister's dogged path to academic success, as they hope to earn their rigid father's approval. Amidst the vividly specific Turkish setting, Samanci brilliantly reflects the universal challenge of finding one's voice--and daring to disappoint. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness