Sm. Mt. Lake Eagle article (1.5MB)
Article on Smith Mt. Lake 4-H Center Writing Workshop and Forty Thorns
ATA-DC Book Club review (883.0KB)
4-2013 Turkish Association of DC Book Club event & review
TATV Turk Coffee Time Show
Washington, DC spring 2013
Utube link about Forty Thorns
video interview, Utube
Forty Thorns, Carol Willoughby
Valley Business Front Magazine, pg. 54, June 12, 2012
by David Barudin
Forty Thorns (Published Dec. 2012, Remzi Kitabevi, Istanbul) by American poet and memoirist Judy Light Ayyildiz is the sweeping drama of the intrigue and day-to-day struggle to survive during the Turkish Revolution, and covers the time period from 1912-1980. Early in this time, the people of the nascent Turkish Republic (and former crumbled Ottoman Empire) had opposed the armies of Russia, Great Britain, the Allies’ occupations, and Greece. The story is told through the eyes of Adalet, the author’s late mother-in-law. The title derives from Adalet, age 12, tasked with plucking 40 evil thorns from the cursed wedding dress of her older sister so that the ceremony could proceed. It’s a formative metaphor in the unfolding action surrounding her dynamic family.
Ayyildiz spent seven years researching this novel, based on Adalet’s oral memoir, and in interviewing Adalet before her death in at age 92. Not a life chronicle or work of journalism, the book takes a zip-zag timeline fitting the old woman’s memory, darting back and forward as she recounts her life. The result is a family saga and a girl’s growth into womanhood that parallels and symbolizes the rise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the Turkish Republic.
The book succeeds spectacularly in portraying Turkey in its entirety, from ancient roots to the present, and particularly during the founding of the modern nation. Ayyildiz creates her story in much the same way Margaret Mitchell’s epic Gone with the Wind depicts the American South in its demise in a similarly bloody American Civil War—through the eyes of a woman caught up in the conflict. She does it with the light touch of a master writer at the top of her skills.
With little effort Forty Thorns brings to life the upheaval of a country and the conflicts raging in Adalet’s revolutionary family. Several of them comprise an inner circle of the emerging Republic, and are the meat of the story. Through them we see the epic proportions of the events playing out behind them, presto, rolling magically in front of our eyes. Readers are likely to stop during Forty Thorns and ponder how Ayyildiz does it.
The author is Mitchell-esque in letting the book unfold through her characters’ eyes seeing the struggle for freedom and then to govern. The country is heading in an opposite trajectory than Mitchell’s South, that of victory and the birthing of a nation. The two stories are similar in their end result of showing us the tumult and regeneration of a war for independence clearly distilled and defined. Both books impart insight on the immeasurable challenges and loss endured by determined heroines during hard and dangerous times.
Adalet is toned down from the flamboyant Southern coquette, but the Turkish Scarlet story is real. And Ayyildiz’ achievement is in letting Turkey’s stormy creation be told through a vulnerable and courageous woman. Forty Thorns will find a lasting place in the hearts of its countrymen and in the bulwark of Turkish literary history. Indeed, in worldwide interest for generations. It’s like watching Tara ablaze in a dark theater on the big screen.
The reviewer’s by-line has appeared in many U.S. magazines and newspapers. A former journalist and publisher of Southern U.S. travel magazines, his first novel is currently being considered for publication. He holds a Masters in Arts in Creative Writing from Hollins University in Virginia.
June 12, 2012
Forty Thorns by Judy Light Ayyildiz
A Dignified Story Of The Balkan Tragedy and Nation Building
Book Review by Ergun Kirlikovali
Can you hear the silent cries? Of a lonely baby here? A grandmother there? Can you feel the pain of broken families? Lost siblings and parents? Destroyed lives? And little dreams? Can you sense the sights and sounds of those subtle impressions of turbulent yesteryear? So close to your heart and soul, and yet, so far to your tired mind and daily grind.... So painful and vivid, and yet, so lacking and forgettable. Then, in the middle of vast nothingness, profound suffering, and unrelenting deficiency… you come across hope, magnanimity, and dare I say, renewal! I am, of course, talking about countless weary Turks today who trace their lineage to the infamous Balkan Tragedy. You touch the little dreams of these tormented people, and “Puff!”, they turn into magnanimous giants… “What a heart!” you conclude, “after all that torment, all that pain, all that loss, not a single manifestation of depression or rebellion or, god forbid, hate…”
These are the sentiments that tossed me like tumbleweeds into a forgotten past of a sad geography while I was reading Forty Thorns. Frankly, I was not quite ready for what awaited me in the unassuming pages of this heart wrenching literary fiction.
In one episode when the main character, Adalet, was describing the sights and sounds of that last “escape train” from Bulgaria in October or November of 1912, I thought my heart was pounding so hard that it would escape my chest.
I was reading as fast as I could, perhaps not paying due attention to the genuinely brilliant story telling that the writer generously put forth, with the hope of coming across some evidence of personal value. When I read the lines where Adalet hears voices of a baby, I thought this was my eureka moment… my moment of truth and I began to review an oral history that I hold in my own mind:
A little baby boy grabbed my attention. He was crying but there was nobody around to care of him. What was his story? I approached and picked him up. I noticed a piece of crumpled, old paper, pinned on his tiny baby clothes, with some faint words scribbled on it, apparently in haste: 'Akif's son Ratip. Born in 1911. Kirlikova'. (My name.) I didn't know what to do. So I handed him over to the Ottoman Official whose name tag read.... Yes, unbeknownst to Adalet, and probably to most readers, there was another inconspicuous rider on that escape train: a one-year-old baby with no parents, relatives or even acquaintances accompanying him. A solo traveler who was totally left in the care of the Ottoman officials. That one-year-old, orphan baby boy was my father and I was desperately looking for clues in Forty Thorns about my dad's presence on that train. Alas, I did not have any! I still owe the writer a debt of gratitude, however, as she brought me so close to that eternally elusive moment.
I totally understand that as Adalet, the main character, was too concerned about the well being of her own family to worry about a homeless baby, one of perhaps hundreds, even thousands,on that train. I might read the book again to see if I have missed any clues as it is a fantastic reading, after all.
When I retire, in about, say, a million years from now, I plan to tell my parents' story. On one side, my father, a one-year-old baby from the village of KIRLIKOVA in 1912, which is located in the borderline area of rolling hills where Bulgaria meets Greece today, but neither apparently meets humanity. And on the other, my mother, half of whose parents and grandparents were also slaughtered but in another Balkan town, Skopje (Uskup in Turkish), and by another Balkan Christian group, Serbians. My mother's story is similar, but involves no train as it was not deemed safe enough; just on foot alongside ox-pulled-cart caravans and through roads least traveled, for safety reasons—some safety; half the family could still not escape painful death at the hands of marauding revolutionaries.....
We, Turks, do not tell our tragedies; we just want to forget about them and move on with hope towards the promise of rekindling and rejuvenation. While it may be understandable, that does not make it right. So, I thank Ayyildiz for telling her mother-in-laws’ compelling story, which happens to be my father’s story, give or take a little, and quite possibly yours, too, and in fact, the story of most Turks today.
I am not surprised that Forty Thorns has just won 1st Place in Literary Fiction awards and also become a finalist in Historical Fiction given by the International Book Awards. (See the link: http://www.internationalbookawards.com/2012pressrelease.html .)
Those who scream genocide of this or that today would be eternally ashamed to level those charges against Turks if they knew about half the cruelty and deaths Turks suffered at the hands of Balkan Christian nationalists during the many Balkan Wars (1877-1913) and Anatolian Christian nationalists during armed revolts (1882-1922,) World War One (1914-1918,) and, finally, the Turkish Independence War (1919-1922.) It may be said that from 1877 to 1922, Muslims, mostly Turks, were subjected to unspeakable tortures, brutality, mortality, and forced migrations, all of which are still conveniently ignored in the West. The fact that Turkish suffering is untold may explain why it is still largely unknown today. This wonderful novel, Forty Thorns, is only the tip of the iceberg of that period of history.
I am moved by the incredible resilience of those Turks during nation-building years. How can one create something out of nothing? Who are those people with true grit? After reading Forty Thorns, I felt I knew nothing about matters of suffering and loss, as I have not experienced anything even remotely close to what Adalet and her family, friends, and others have gone through: torment, disappointment, adversity, scarcity, and more. But eventually, some sense of triumph. I feel I am doing this book injustice by this review as I have dwelled so much on suffering and loss and not enough on renewal and nation building during the Ataturk years of the Republic of Turkey. One must read with compassion to see how women and children are empowered and educated in those years of grinding poverty, endless wars, and exhaustion. I will defer this task to the book. The reader will appreciate what I mean as the story sadly unfolds.
Finally, I do not want to spoil the fun by telling who did what, but I feel compelled to quote this poignant Turkish poem on page 328, composed by the main character, Adalet, with riveting simplicity and profound impact, with heart and soul, for which I am humbly proposing this new English translation, to make it even more heartrending, just like the way it truly is in its magnificent original Turkish:
My Joyful World is torn apart,
Shrunken on its axis.
The candle of love went out,
My heart became a shrine-keeper.
May your candle of love never go out….
Forty Thorns, a review
By Mildred T. Sandridge
Judy Light Ayyildiz , challenged by her Turkish mother in law, Adalet, to write this history, presents a biography that spans her lifetime and an important era for Turkey. Ayyildiz is a devoted daughter in law, who blends herself skillfully into the life of Adalet in kindred spirit, a unified kismet. The writer manages to let us hear the sound of Adalet’s own voice, weaving the history of Turkey into Adalet’s personal experience. Time and place shift to tell a complex story of life, death, love, birth and hope. Adalet is portrayed from her girlhood to motherhood of seven children, and continued experience in conflict of war and personal strife.
Chapters of ancient history and ancient goddesses thoughtfully parallel Adalet’s spirit with Mother Earth, linking the author and her mother in law. Motherhood is a dominant theme of the story. The reader is challenged to remember many names of a large family, extending for three generations. Contrasting cultures unite, even as predictable emotions of family grief bring tensions together of all humanity completing the story of a life. Ayyildiz is able to meld time, place, cultures and her own present day. Translations of the story that came to her in Adalet’s native language was necessary, although the two women bridged all of this with a common language of the heart.
Most current publicity, reviews, speaking-signing updates
As of summer 2012:
FORTY THORNS is now available in al ebook and ibook formats through Smashwords Premium.
Nothing but Time is available on Kindle.
Forty Thorns U.S. Distribution through Pathway Book Service.
update on FORTY THORNS
Reviews, book tours, speaking engagements, and signings
Morgan Bailey's AUTHOR'S SPOTLIGHT
March 2012 focus on JudyLightAyyildiz
Arts Connect the Continents
Forty Thorns or Kirk Diken available at this link
new interview with Judy about writing, books
link to Mediterranean-new post with excerpt from FORTY THORNS
novel release in States (376.7KB)
link to: Kirk Diken (Forty Thorns)
Publisher/author/book site-Remzi Book House
Article published in Ankara, Turkey on Kamal Ayyildiz's art
Ankara Life article by Fuad Abdullah
May 2011, Fjords 40-60 page literary-arts journal, "The Flood," a short story from my WV memoir in progress titled THE WEST VIRGINIA DIET; "View from the Top Floor," (poem) a winner in the 2009 Nazim Hikmet Festival; "Pawley's Island 1987" (poem)
Radford University Women's Studies Committee and Club
Virginia Comission for the Arts
Judy's link on VCA roster for writer in schools
Click link for JUDY'S VITA (55.5KB)
publications, honors, presentations, teaching, civic leadership
Kamal Ayyildiz, visual artist, poet
click to view Kamal's web site
Moonstar Films site
Documentary films by Kent Ayyildiz