by Tara Agacayak on August 11, 2010

This post, though a reaction to this one asking for white ambassadors to aid a black writer cross over, is not about race.

This post is about the perception that we’re on the outside of something.

Or that we’re in the margins.

Or that we flow in rivulets parallel to, but never destined to unite with, the mainstream.

And it’s about choice.

And it proposes that we get to declare what bookshelf we sit on and what circles we occupy and where we belong.

My argument begins in Turkey and my question to the author of that post is: cross over what exactly?







Because the cliche about Turkey is that it is east and it is west. It is old and new. It is modern and ancient. Europe and Asia. Religious and secular. The juxtapositions are numerous but they demonstrate something.

They show that a place can be both, it just depends on where you choose to draw the line.

Turkey proves that there is no polarity, but lots of ambiguity.

If it is both this and that at the same time, how can you classify something to give it meaning? Who is in charge of that? Who decides?

Choice can be a daunting responsibility

We think that the responsibility belongs to someone else, someone with the authority, or someone from the mainstream or someone who has been certified for example.

But not us in the margins, right? Not us (women, immigrants, blacks, expats …), we don’t get the right to do that. No one gave it to us. And with that fallacy you give away your right to choose – to say what is.

But it’s a misperception, because the line is imaginary.







The circles we draw keep us in and keep us out at the same time.

I prefer to think that the circles are fluid, like the hems of whirling dervishes as Elif Shafak describes.

I believe we get to gerrymander the map in a way that suits who we are, not who we aren’t.

And I think that we get to say who we are. Not publishers, not editors, not readers. Not if we don’t give that responsibility away.

That’s the whole democratic power of the user-generated web, that we get to classify ourselves in this space. We assign our own tags and categories and networks.

We do have to speak to people in a language that they understand, but we also have the opportunity to draw new boundaries, propose new ways of being and connect in new forums.

When she spoke at Women at the Well, Nelly Capra said the world kept inviting her to conform and to settle for what it wanted her to be. She continued to be in places where she didn’t feel she belonged. Though she yearned for approval, she never found it trying to please other people.

“There are different ways to belong”, she says, “and by finding my life purpose and aligning myself with it, I found the place I call home. By owning my own dream, I have been able to generate that feeling of home wherever I go.”

My question again is, cross over what?

How can you solve the problem by changing the question?

How can you redraw the circles so that they encompass something greater?

How can you find the place where you belong by choosing to classify yourself instead of letting other people do it for you?








Announcing HYBRID AMBASSADORS: a blog-ring project  of Dialogue2010

You met our multinational cultural innovators this spring in a roundtable discussion of hybrid life at expat+HAREM. Now in these interconnected blog posts some of them share reactions toa recent polarizing book promotion at the writing network SheWrites.

Join the discussion on Twitter using #HybridAmbassadors or #Dialogue2010

More thoughts on this subject from my fellow hybrid ambassadors:

Tara Lutman Agacayak’s Circles 
Anastasia Ashman’s Great White People Book Club 
Catherine Bayar’s Thicker Skin 
Elmira Bayraslı’s The Color of Writing 
Rose Deniz’s Voice Lessons from a Hybrid Ambassador 
Jocelyn Eikenburg’s The Problem with “Chinese Food” 
Sezin Koehler’s Whites Only? 
Judith van Praag’s We Write History Today 
Catherine Yiğit’s Special-ism


Previous post:

Next post: