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The Maiden’s Tower
Once upon a time, a soothsayer made a prediction to a Byzantine King that his daughter would die as a result of a snakebite on her eighteenth birthday. Thereupon, the King had a castle built in the middle of the sea in order to protect her. Time passed and the girl grew up alone, but safe, in her castle tower. To celebrate preventing his daughter’s death and defying fate, her father brought the young maiden a basket of exquisite fruits on her eighteenth birthday. However, the prediction made by the soothsayer inevitably came true as a snake hiding in the fruit basket bit and killed his little princess.
The citrus orchard died out in 1970. My grandparents packed up their four kids and some belongings and left sunny southern Turkey for Brooklyn, NY. Over the next decade much of my family would follow suit. The America my family found was entirely foreign. They had to organize and build the things they were missing, forming very tight knit communities. My family did what many recent immigrants find themselves doing—trying to carve out a space for themselves to exist in American society, while making it their mission to not lose what makes them who they are. However, in my own personal experience, and in the experience of my generation in general, we encounter ideas of assimilation and cultural diversity much differently. I didn’t fight the inevitable like the King, but I understand why he tried, and why my elders tried. Growing up I struggled with the frustration at not being one or the other. I was not Turkish in the way my parents or their parents were, and I never would be, even if I tried as hard as they wanted me to. At the same time, I also wasn’t American, not in the sense that I could indentify with any of the characters taught in American History books, or with backyard barbeques and apple pie. But I think that up in my tower I created a world that fits me, and while not always perfectly, many of us balance being American and some other thing at the same time. All my days spent floating between two things have given me a unique understanding of America and an appreciation for my particular sort of American experience. I’m interested in where my family’s past and my present meet, and how that is visually manifested. I find nods to a complex history and sprawling empire in most living rooms. I find humor in the exaggerative décor in our spaces, and have a reverence for the stubborn refusal to let things be inornate. By holding on to what once was, and injecting it into the present, my family created for me a life of fantasy. One where I could find great opulence and splendor on every tabletop. I find grandeur, glamour, and glory seeping into my seemingly banal daily life. I find every day places and things holding within them a past, an incredible beauty, and a potential for greatness.
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Akturk, Yasemin Melisa, "The Maiden's Tower" (2015). Senior Projects Spring 2015. 213.