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The Happiness of Blond People: A Personal Meditation on the Dangers of Identity

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4.10  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Penguin Specials are designed to fill a gap. Written to be read over a long commute or a short journey, they are original and exclusively in digital form. This is Elif Shafak's examination of national identity.

"You know, I never understand. How come their children are so quiet and well disciplined?"

"Yeah," said the distressed father, his voice suddenly softer. "Blond child
...more
Kindle Edition, Penguin Specials, 25 pages
Published December 1st 2011 by Penguin
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Cry-Of-The-Elves You can try and look it up on https://www.gutenberg.org/ or borrow it from the library. You can also download the "kindle" mobile app if you wish to…moreYou can try and look it up on https://www.gutenberg.org/ or borrow it from the library. You can also download the "kindle" mobile app if you wish to purchase the book. You can get the ebook on the AppStore if you have an Apple device as well.(less)
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 ·  313 ratings  ·  33 reviews


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Didi
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I first discovered Elif Shafak when I read The Bastard of Istanbul some years ago with my book club. Excellent book! Shafak is a very poignant and insightful writer. In this essay she focuses on immigration and what that often entails. It begins with her eavesdropping on two Turkish men exchanging about the subject of his Dutch neighbor that calls the police everytime his children make noise. The disturbing thing is that they actually come to his house. The man says, "Blond children never cry to ...more
Claire McAlpine
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I have read two novels by Elif Shafak and enjoy her work immensely. She is a writer who defies labels and I don't know it is even correct to refer to her as Turkish, she is the epitome of a world citizen, at home in many different cities, countries and both speaks and writes in multiple languages.

In this essay she draws on both her observations and her studies, quoting many known philosophers and sharing her perceptions of the angst of immigrants, of multiculturalism and suggests in this age of
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Lela
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written piece contrasting some of all of our assumptions about those not like us. Clear and concise and loaded with truth.
Teynidhi Ramsewak
“…We tend to form comfort zones based on similarity, and then produce macro- opinions and clichés about ‘Others’, whom, in fact, we know so little about. When people stop talking, genuinely talking, to each other, they become more prone to making judgements."
Everyone should read this once. I feel that would hammer home some semblance of sense and shed light on the utter irrationality behind wars being fought and xenophobia.
Diana
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would recommend this to anyone thinking of changing countries or already living in a country different from the one he was born in. It's a heartfelt, but well-documented essay on identity and our roots and how having more than one home enriches our lives despite the anxiety that brings with it.

"The one who leaves his or her homeland for good is often stalked by mixed emotions of guilt, longing, confusion, anticipation and insecurity, some or all of which can spring up from out of nowhere, for
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Elif
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Flawless essay. I could relate to it on so many levels as a child of immigrants myself. Totally recommend it, it's smart, it's true and it makes you think (and highlight almost every sentence). Great!
Debbie "DJ"
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It would be wonderful if everyone could read this short book. It is beautifully written and really helped me to take a hard look at how I view "others." So often things are seen in black or white or as stagnant, when in reality we are fluid and interconnected in a multitude of ways.
Roozbeh Daneshvar
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think this book is a very good resource for people who have immigrated, as well as those who did not. I have had plenty of discussions with fellow immigrants and those who stayed in the "home" country. Did we, immigrants, betray the country and the people by leaving? But did we even really leave our country and our people? Now that we immigrants are outside, do we have the right to criticize our first country? (or is criticizing merely the right of those who stayed, as some of my friends belie ...more
Nicole
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
What started with an unassuming anecdote quickly blossoms into a short but worthwhile (and, for me, relatable) meditation on belonging, angst, multiculturalism, and social harmony. I'm curious to read more from Elif Shafak.
Omar
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It goes without mention that Elif Shafak is a gem and a gift to all readers. It is rare to find a writer who can lace the gaps between Eastern and Western thought with such finesse.

As she states in the novella, multiculturalism is something that will be the story of our lives. Something that is unstoppable and ever present in the public space. How we approach this phenomenon is will determine how beautiful and peaceful the world of our future generations will be.

Thought provoking, stimulating an
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Dan Bernier
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks, read-2018
"Not surprisingly, in Islamic cultures thresholds have been seen as elusive places, zones of ambiguity.

"I have always been fond of thresholds, though."

A lovely essay on the troubles with only seeing people as their national identity.

"Either/or approaches ask us to make a choice, all the while spreading the fallacy that it is not possible to have multiple belongings, multiple roots, multiple loves."
Zehra
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
She says exactly what I think but far more eloquently. It takes an hour to read - read it!
Drashya
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shafak's beautiful writing makes this essay a page-turner of sorts (even though there's not a lot of pages to turn). However, the essay fell short on my expectations from it. My unusually high excitement from it might be partly to blame. For one, the title is really misleading. The major chunk of the text talks about Shafak's experiences growing up in Turkey and Western Europe/USA and raising kids on her internationally mobile lifestyle, and how her Muslim background clashes/assimilates with the ...more
Diane
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
"In this life, if we are ever going to learn anything, we will be learning it from those who are different from us. It is in the crossroads of ideas, cultures, literatures, traditions, arts and cuisines that humanity has found fertile grounds for growth."

Elif Shafak's work has been recommended to me, and I thought I would start with this short essay on identity that's very personal to her. Well, I'm happy I did because I can relate to her experience of growing up in different countries.

She ackno
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Louise
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this beautifully written personal essay, Elif shares her thoughts, realisations and observations she has experienced in regards to multiculturalism and the nervous reactions which have resulted throughout the world. I enjoyed this because even though I am very open minded, it allowed me to step back and reflect on the way I view others. The book reinforces the value of kindness and encourages the reader to view the bigger picture of a person's journey. I would recommend to read this book (tak ...more
The Logophile Wanderess
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As an immigrant and a person who is fluent in two languages and can never really tell which one is her first language, somebody who is never fully at home anywhere, reading this gave me so much comfort and an insight into my own experience!
I would want to read it again and again and again...
I might also update my review! This vehement note is after I’ve read it once and the ideas made me so excited that I lost the power of deep contemplation! I just loved each and every sentence and the way they
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Adina
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As good as I thought it would be, an essay I wish I had written. Very relevant to our times, the idea that one can have multiple homes and identify with more than one culture is something I feel very strongly connected to, through both personal experience and interactions with others. Recommended to anyone who's in need of an intellectual treat!
кай жук
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
‘You know why I have never gone back to visit the old city?’ he said. ‘Because if I go I won’t come back to America. Ever! I’ll stay there, die there and be buried there. I love it so much. My kids don’t get it, they are too American, what do they know about unrequited love?’
The Book
Jul 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, turkey
Mixed feelings about this...wanted to like it, but it read like a very fussy academic essay to begin with and loosened up towards the end where it became more engaging and interesting to read.
Jo
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
An interesting short reflection on the need to leave behind fixed cultural identities and stand with an open heart on the thresholds between us and others.

"All kinds of extremist, exclusivist discourses are similarly reductionist and sheathed in tautology. Either/ or approaches ask us to make a choice, all the while spreading the fallacy that it is not possible to have multiple belongings, multiple roots, multiple loves."

"People on the cusp of civilizations, natural-born commuters, connecting pl
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Omar Taufik
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: elif-shafak
I have to admit I really enjoyed reading this very short but wonderful book by our author Elif Şafak.
The author discusses various issues related to the topic of Muslim immigrants to Europe and the culture of multi ethnic / religious existence in modern societies.
She also gives us some interesting details about her personal bringing up and life as a relevant example to the topic.
The author also explores the political aspect of the topic discussing what should be done on the hand of politicians
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Christine
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Insightful essay! Shafak eloquently shares her childhood experiences and stories of immigrants to probe the questions we could be asking (amidst heated debates on immigration and muliculturalism), shedding light on how we are all connected and similar in essence. She particularly marks the danger of looking at these issues through the lens of politics (when we encourage generalisations, we remove nuances and complexities, and all's that's left in sight is chaotic antagonism).

Especially memorabl
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Cyrus Carter
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a person living 26/54 outside of his own country, I found Ms. Shafak's take on the experience wise and comprehending. She takes the experience to the next level by critiquing the Muslim / Christian perception of a divide. I would put forward that conservative Christians hold many of the same narrow beliefs as conservative muslims and that we need to be as open to understanding as Ms. Shafak wants us to be. A good quick 20 minute read for understanding of community....
Lindsey
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: turkish
Elif has done it again - a beautifully written essay that compares and contrasts stereotypes of the East and the West while emphasizing the humanity in us all. Elif discusses the dangers of creating walls around ourselves and our cultures, and she highlights the beauty of those who mold themselves by different cultures and seemingly opposite ideals, thereby creating a truly unique personal shape and identity.
Jb
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A beautiful and thoughtful discussion about the continued mixing of world cultures and the anxiety and nervousness which follows. This personal narrative will help anyone step back from their own setting and wonder what is beyond our own sense of self and identity. Charmingly told, I recommend even if you have not read Elif's fiction. A quick read, this offers great insight to a wonderfully imaginative author. Enjoy!
Pam
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Intrigued by the title, and because I love Elif Safak I decided to download this. I love the way she writes, and this only confirms that. I could also relate to a lot of what she describes since I have lived outside of my own country for maybe 15 years now. I did not anticipate it would become a discussion about religion, but all very valid points. It was a very nice companion to my afternoon coffee.
Elcin Vardar
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"In Sufi philosophy there is a legendary tree named Tuba. It's like any other tree except it is upside down. Evergreen and ever bearing, its roots are up in the air, extending towards the vast, blue sky. I like that image. I find it comforting. It helps me to envisage the possibility that one can have roots without actually putting down roots anywhere." Couldn't agree more..
Tanya
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: human-science
This is a by short book, more essay than book really. I love it as it talks about identities, especially Western versus Eastern, and stereotyping, and, in particular, how little that reflects the reality if ordinary people. Identities are fluid, not fixed, she says, and that is a good thing. I agree!
Mona
2.5 stars.
Anne Scott
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
More of an essay - I like these little Penguin shorts. Thought provoking
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Elif Shafak was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1971. She is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey. Critics have named her as “one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary Turkish and world literature”. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and she was awarded the honorary distinction of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Shafak
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“My contention is one can have several homes, instead of a single, fixed homeland. One can belong to numerous cities and cultures and peoples, regardless of the way current politics situates them apart. In an age of migrations and movements, when many of us already dream in more than one language, it is time to discard ‘identity politics’ altogether. It is no longer doing us any good. All it does is to create further antagonism and deeper Angst. Instead, what we need are ‘liquid attachments’ – bonds of love and memory and commitment that are constantly in flux, defined and redefined ad infinitum.” 3 likes
“…We tend to form comfort zones based on similarity, and then produce macro- opinions and clichés about ‘Others’, whom, in fact, we know so little about. When people stop talking, genuinely talking, to each other, they become more prone to making judgements. The less I know about, say Mongolians, the more easily and confidently I can draw conclusions about them. If I know ten Mongolians with entirely different personalities and conflicting viewpoints, I’ll be more cautious next time I make a remark about Mongolian national identity. If that number is 100, I may be even more detailed in my approach, for I will know that, while they share common cultural traits, Mongolians are not a monolithic mass of undifferentiated individuals. As a storyteller I am less interested in generalizations than in undertones and nuances. These may not be visible at first glance, but they are out there, lurking beneath the surface, durable and distinct.” 2 likes
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