Thursday, June 13, 2013

Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea: An American Woman’s Letters to Turkey

As an American woman who spent several years living in and traveling to Turkey, I was intrigued by the title of Katharine Branning’s memoir: Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea: An American Woman’s Letters to Turkey. Branning, a fellow librarian, has traveled and researched in Turkey since 1978 and has a clear love for and affinity with the country. However, the book does not do a good job of showing that love. She tells about her love, she gives lists and details about different topics relating to the country, culture, and people, but she does not paint a clear picture of her Turkey. I wanted less telling and more stories. I wanted concrete examples to support her claims. I wanted to feel Turkey and enjoy her personality, but she failed to bring color to her essays. In addition, the book is framed around letters to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who is known for her letters written from Turkey in the 18th century. However, this device was more distracting and clunky than helpful.

Overall, I was quite disappointed with the book . . . until I read the last essay. In her final chapter, Branning describes her journey from Istanbul to New York City on September 11, 2001. For the first time, she shows her story, she reveals her feelings and emotions, and she finally connects with the reader. Even a dozen years after the event, I found myself overwhelmed by emotions: my own, Branning’s, and the Turks that embraced her at the time. If only she had been willing to expose herself in a similar fashion throughout the book.

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