Crescent & Star by Stephen Kinzer

Part travel journal and part history lesson, Kinzer introduces readers to modern Turkey. Looking behind the myths placed on this country by both its own citizens and other countries, he explains how this now-modern state has progressed from its former status as part of the Ottoman Empire to its current embrace of democracy.

Turkey has an interesting form of democracy — largely run by the military, but not to the point South American countries have experienced.  Speech is regulated in this country, but so are outward displays of one’s Islamic faith. In fact, women have been expelled from universities in the country for wearing their headscarf. The military and political elites are secular and despite to maintain their power and and ward off from Islamization of their neighborhoods.

The country is home to a large population of Kurds, which they continue to suppress and deny even the right to broadcast in their language, and has a troubled (to put it mildly) relationship with both Greece and Armenia. The country continues to deny the extent and role Turks played in the Armenian Genocide and actively denies the term genocide to describe what happened to the Armenian people. (My university is one of the few in the United States to recognize this genocide as a genocide).

I learned so much about this fascinating country thanks to this book. The author’s writing is clear and concise, and I was in no way overwhelmed by the amount of information he imparts on his readers. Once again, he turns a relatively dry subject into an interesting one.

Kinzer’s love of the country is evident throughout, but his love does not prevent him from portraying it for all its ills as a country in constant flux, coming into its own after decades of twists and turns. He’s quick to point out Turkey’s shortcomings, which makes for a very balanced book.

The message of this book, though, is how desperately Turkey wants to join the European Union. Kinzer maintains that Turkey’s accession to the EU is necessary for Turkey on an economic, social, and psychological basis as well as for the country to become a leader for other predominantly Muslim countries around the world. Turkey’s application to accede to the European Union was made on April 14, 1987, but the earliest the country could join is in 2013. Turkey’s membership bid has become a controversy throughout the EU.

Book Mentioned:

  • Kinzer, Stephen. Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. Print. 252 pgs. ISBN: 0374131730. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Retrieved: May 28, 2011.
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