This post is one that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I actually wrote about it a little bit on my Goodreads page. Basically, before I jump into it, I want to give a disclaimer: I loved And I Darken. I even met Kiersten White and told her how much I loved it. I still love And I Darken and I truly understand why other people love this series. Had things went differently for the series, I probably would have read the other two books and loved them as well.
Now let me tell you why I’m making this post and why I believe it’s necessary that other people read this too.
If you didn’t know, And I Darken is set in the Ottoman Empire, and involves Mehmed the Conqueror’s conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul). The story itself is a twist on actual history–the main character is the female version of Vlad the Impaler, a historical figure–but in its essence, the books are still historical fiction (with obvious differences, of course).
A fact I should let you know at this point–I’m Turkish. The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire. The Ottoman nobles, sultans, culture, food, language, were Turkish. As I was saying, I’m Turkish, and I’m a pretty proud one. And specifically, I love the Ottoman Empire: it’s history, it’s leaders, it’s accomplishments. As with any powerful empire, the Ottoman Empire had it’s flaws and wrongdoings. However, I absolutely despise it when Turks and the Ottoman Empire are depicted as cruel, ruthless people who took away the very Christian, and very European, Constantinople.
In most descriptions written by people who are white, European, or Christian, the seizure of Constantinople is viewed as a terrible day. Turks are described as disgusting people who had no mercy for those living in the city. On Wikipedia, it states that Ottomans barged into the city, raped the women, and destroyed all of the churches.
I am here to tell you that this depiction is wrong. Of course, it wasn’t all glorious and beautiful. It was still war, after all. But to the contrary of most opinions, the Ottomans did not go into Istanbul and ruin everything. They kept all of the churches and religious places of worship intact. The damage they did on the city’s walls were caused by the fact that they needed a way into the city to capture it.
Now, you’re probably thinking: what does this have to do with And I Darken?
And I Darken involves Mehmed the Conqueror, who is probably one of the most–if not the most–celebrated figure in Ottoman (Turkish) history, as he was the one who conquered Istanbul. While I was reading Book 1, I didn’t really mind how Mehmed was depicted. I heard other people talking about how they hated him, but I assumed it was just as how people hate certain book characters and slid it off. However, as I read through reviews of Now I Rise, I realized that nearly everyone was talking about how much they hated him. Or how terribly sad the scenes of the conquering of Constantinople were. And I know I haven’t read the book–but these are things that I can not ignore. I can not ignore people who know near to nothing about my people, my culture, talk about the horridness of such a huge aspect of my history. I can not ignore people bashing someone who was not a devil, someone who was educated and such an important figure in the history of not only Turkey, but of the world.
I cannot ignore the bastardization, in a way, of my culture.
You can not say this is only fiction. Fiction is not something to be nudged off or considered lightly. Fiction changes. Fiction impacts. Fiction touches. Fiction can change the way you think, for better or for worse, and I am very sad to say that I don’t think these beloved books are doing the job they should. For many people, reading this series may be the first time they are exposed to the Ottoman Empire and Turks/Mehmed the Conqueror, and these books will impact the way they think about them. No matter how fictitious, they will assume some biases that are inevitable when reading historical fiction. And I cannot support this anymore.
Thank you for reading this. This post, out of all the ones I have made so far, matters to me perhaps the most. I would greatly appreciate it if you spread this information and discuss it with me, as it would truly make a difference.
*One point: I really do appreciate Kiersten White’s efforts in portraying Islam, despite all of the things I said about Turkey/Turkish culture–I think she did it very well, and I do respect that. But this is about a different topic that I think should be addressed.*
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