We love Elif Shafak, if that wasn’t entirely clear…
This month, in partnership with Penguin, we are celebrating all things Elif Shafak. If you’re searching for a truly inspirational woman, look no further. Here are 5 reasons you should get to know her, if you don’t already.
She’s an International Feminist Icon
Elif is an activist and has publicly advocated for women’s rights, minority rights, and freedom of speech. She’s given TED talks on the topics, ‘‘The Revolutionary Power of Diverse Thinking’ and ‘The Politics of Fiction’. In 2017, she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people that will “give you a much needed lift of the heart”. She’s also a member of the Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). The woman’s a powerhouse!
Though she now resides in Britain, Elif has strong ties to Turkey and lived there with her mother and grandmother whilst growing up. She is the most widely-read female writer there but doesn’t let her popularity in the region prevent her from highlighting the country’s failings. She has done so at great personal risk with the threat of jail time looming when her novel ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’ was investigated by police for addressing the Armenian genocide – an event the Turkish government denies to this day. Undeterred, she continues to speak up and speak out.
Her Books Really are Books that Matter
Elif’s books centre issues that strike at the core of our humanity. In ‘Honour’ she writes about the constraints of duty and family responsibility, in ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’ she addresses genocide and in ‘10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World’ she shows how sex workers can be forced to operate on the outskirts of a society that ostracises and desires them at the same time. Shafak writes with an understanding of the power and importance of the written word and she uses her gift to broaden minds and start much-needed conversations about how we treat the least privileged among us.
She’s Well-Loved by Critics and Readers Alike
There are writers who are celebrated by the establishment but enjoy limited (if any) commercial success and there are writers who are loved by millions of readers across the world but are overlooked by prestigious literary bodies. Elif is one of those rare authors who manages to enjoy the best of both worlds as was demonstrated when her stunning novel ‘10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World’ was both shortlisted for the Booker Prize and chosen as Blackwell’s book of the year.
She’s a Calming Presence on Social Media
If you’re not already following Elif on Instagram (erm, why not go and do it now), you absolutely should. Her posts are some of the most calming on my feed and often teach me something. Her recent essay collection ‘How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division’ is a must read for anyone who regularly uses social media, it reminds us of the importance of listening as well as sharing our own views. In that book she writes, “when communication is broken, coexistence, inclusion and social harmony will also be damaged”. In a world full of people shouting “look at me!” for likes and followers, Elif provides a much needed oasis of peace and reflection.
She Writes in English and in Turkish
Elif could be forgiven for choosing to write only in English given the size and profitability of her English-speaking audience but she has not forgotten her mother tongue and writes in both languages. By continuing to write in Turkish she is able to preserve that which is unique to the language and culture of her ancestors.
I hope that’s convinced you to find out more about this amazing icon and explore her backlist. I’ll end with a quote from the lady herself taken from her novel ‘The Forty Rules of Love’, she writes “The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practise compassion… The words that come out of our mouth do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time.”
Written by Rachel Matthews