Gardens of Water: Teacher’s Guide

This post was written by guest contributor Rahela Choudhury, whose initial review of Gardens of Water can be found here. Other writing by Rahela is available here, here, and here.

This second post about Alan Drew’s novel Gardens of Water will serve as a critique of the book’s accompanying teacher’s guide. In particular the focus will be on how this guide, while leading readers to reflect on certain aspects of the character Irem’s life, manages to either minimize or altogether disregard some of the most significant events this character experiences throughout the story.

The first problematic perusal into Irem’s life within the teacher’s guide is in how it only raises questions pertaining to her life prior to the escape to Istanbul with her American boyfriend Dylan. Two examples of such questions include the following: “How do themes of family honor and freedom come into conflict in İrem’s decision to leave the camp with Dylan and travel to Istanbul? Why does her irrevocable decision to pursue her heart’s desire threaten her family’s name?”

While these questions are perfectly fine to ask in and of themselves, they only bring readers’ attention to part of Irem’s story. [Read more...]

Book Review: Gardens of Water

This post was written by guest contributor Rahela Choudhury, and contains spoilers about the book. 

Alan Drew’s Gardens of Water focuses on how two families become forever intertwined after a devastating earthquake wreaks havoc upon their lives. The story takes place in a Turkish town on the outskirts of Istanbul. The two main families in the story, one consisting of Kurdish refugees and the other of American expats, reside in the same apartment building. The Kurdish family is composed of Sinan, along with his wife Nilufer, nine-year-old son Ismail, and fifteen-year-old daughter Irem. The members of the American family are Marcus, his wife Sarah, and seventeen-year old son Dylan.

The story begins the day before the earthquake strikes. Ismail undergoes a circumcision that ends with his family holding a “Sunnet,” or cultural celebration in honor of the event. Besides friends and family, Nilufer convinces Sinan to allow their American neighbors to attend. That night while everyone is asleep, the earthquake strikes. For the first few days afterwards, Ismail is nowhere to be found, with everyone believing him to be dead. However, it is soon discovered that Ismail was actually saved by the American neighbor Sarah, who died protecting him.

From there, the story details the way Sinan’s family struggles to survive in a relief camp set up by Marcus and some American missionaries. Meanwhile, Irem and Dylan secretly begin forging a closer bond together, borne out of the life-changing circumstances in which they both find themselves.

This post will deal primarily with Irem’s relationships with the three male characters in the story, namely her father Sinan, her brother Ismail, and her boyfriend Dylan. [Read more...]