Ozge Samanci’s cartoon memoir Dare to Disappoint, reviewed.

Growing Up Eating Black-Market Corn Flakes in Turkey

Growing Up Eating Black-Market Corn Flakes in Turkey

Reading between the lines.
Jan. 8 2016 1:58 PM

Dare to Disappoint

Ozge Samanci’s charming cartoon memoir of a regimented—yet still often surprising—childhood in Turkey.

Dare to Disappoint.

Dare to Disappoint image courtesy of FSG

A quiet morning in Izmir, Turkey, in the early 1980s. An unexpected knock at an apartment door. Dad whispers to an unfamiliar man, then brings Mom to furtively discuss the news. After a few minutes, they turn to their daughters: “Surprise!” they say cheerfully. “We bought you Corn Flakes!”

Dan Kois Dan Kois

Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s culture department. He is writing a book called How to Be a Family and co-writing, with Isaac Butler, an oral history of Angels in America.

Ozge Samanci’s comics memoir of growing up in Turkey Dare to Disappoint is filled with such unexpected memories. A girlhood of ritual and discipline, Ataturk always staring down from the wall, is frequently interrupted by unorthodox surprises: cartoon broadcasts captured from Athens, posters of Jacques Cousteau, and those Corn Flakes, which are so expensive that Ozge’s parents keep them on a high shelf. “Sometimes after our breakfast,” Samanci remembers, “we had a little bowl of Corn Flakes as a treat.”

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As Ozge makes her way through school in Izmir and college in Istanbul, she struggles with her desire to make art and her need to please her demanding father. It’s a story that will feel familiar to many readers, but it’s made fresh by the unfamiliar setting and by Samanci’s charming artwork, a combination of whimsical line cartoons and collage. She’s a gifted cartoonist with an innate sense of pacing and a seemingly inexhaustible well of ideas for presenting information—the book bursts with maps, diagrams, pasted-in leaves, doodles, and ink stamps. It’s remarkably energetic on the page, and combined with Samanci’s appealing, reflective voice, offers a perfectly satisfying memoir reading experience: not just the story of someone’s life, but the chance to see the world through someone else’s eyes. We’re very proud to have Ozge Samanci illustrating the January Slate Book Review.

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Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey by Ozge Samanci. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

See all the pieces in the Slate Book Review.