I Am My Country

In the past few years, I’ve becoming increasingly drawn to collections of short stories, especially when they center on a topic or culture I know little about. One such book that caught my interest is I Am My Country: And Other Stories by Kenan Orhan. This collection features 10 short stories, all set in Turkey or about Turkish people. It highlights Turkey’s political sphere and culture, often through a lens of magical realism.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with an ARC of this book!


I Am My Country offers 10 short stories, most of them set entirely in Turkey, and all of them about Turkish people. The stories range from magical realism or fantasy to more reliably realistic tales. Some are about siblings, some are about romantic love, and some establish tenuous relationships between virtual strangers. However, despite the diversity in subjects and themes, all of the stories here incorporate Turkey’s political turmoil into the mix. In some stories it plays a far bigger role than in others, but each has at least an element of the sociopolitical environment and the ways that impacts our characters. “The Beyoğlu Municipality Waste Management Orchestra” and “Mule Brigade” are among the most political, in these stories taking strict government issues and dramatizing them into the seemingly absurd.

My favorite story was “The Muezzin,” in which a woman is so distraught by the death of her mother that grief becomes her new identity. She has little emotional space left for her husband, and he strays. Meanwhile, it never stops raining and the politicians only add to the strain. What does it mean for two people to reconnect and move forward in the midst of chaos and certain death?

Another story that stood out is “Three Parts In Which Emre Kills His Daughters.” Emre’s head is in the clouds; he’s always reading his novels and ignoring his three teen and young adult daughters. His youngest daughter is killed at a political rally, and this trauma consumes Emre, making him even more distant from his two remaining daughters. Emre isn’t present in his daughters’ lives until it’s too late.

From antagonism between different groups within Turkey, to the country’s relationship with Cyprus and Greece, to choices we make between selfishness and community, the stories in I Am My Country give a sense of Turkey’s political landscape, history, and culture. The stories are strange but thoughtful, and though they tend toward the bleak, they make for an intriguing collection.

Final Thoughts

I Amy My Country is a fascinating if desolate collection of stories. They are thought-provoking tales that lean towards strangeness and magical realism, all centered on Turkish culture and politics. It’s an unusual collection, but well worth reading, especially if you want to get to know Turkey.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy I Am My Country here – it’s available as a hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

I Am My Country by Kenan Orhan
GenreShort Stories; Literary Fiction
Number of Pages240
Format I Readebook (NetGalley)
Original Publication DateApril 25, 2023

Official Summary

A fiercely imaginative debut story collection by “a startling talent who can seemingly do anything” (Anthony Marra) explores the lives of ordinary people in Turkey to reveal how even individual acts of resistance have extraordinary repercussions.

“No recent collection has captivated me as much as I Am My Country. You must read it!”—Andrew Sean Greer

Spanning decades and landscapes, from the forests along the Black Sea to the streets of Istanbul, Kenan Orhan’s ​playful stories ​conjure dreamlike worlds—of talking animals, flying houses, and omniscient prayer-callers—to ​examine humanity’s unfaltering pursuit of hope in even the darkest circumstances.

A determined florist trains a neighborhood stray dog to blow up a corrupt president. A garbage collector finds banned instruments—and later, musicians—in the trash and takes them home to form a clandestine orchestra in her attic. A smuggler risks his life to bring a young woman claiming to be pregnant via immaculate conception across the border with Syria. A poor cage-maker tries to use his ability to talk to birds to woo his childhood love just before the 1955 Istanbul pogrom. These characters are united by a desperate yearning to break free from the volatile realities they face: rising authoritarianism, cultural and political turmoil, and staggering violence.

Ranging from the absurd to the tenderhearted, the stories in I Am My Country illuminate the constant force amid one country’s history of rampant oppression and revolutionary progress: the impulse to survive.

About the Author

Kenan Orhan

Kenan Orhan’s fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, The Common, Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere and has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Best American Short Stories. His story collection, I Am My Country and Other Stories, is forthcoming from Random House. He lives in Kansas City.

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