Leyla: The Black Tulip by Aleve Lytle Croutier

Saturday, February 6, 2010

After her artist father goes off to war, 12-year-old Leyla must help her family earn enough money to survive. She makes a deal with marriage brokers-- but discovers too late that she's sold herself into slavery instead. Her journey as a slave takes her to faraway Istanbul, into the harem of the sultan. There she finds her Kismet, or destiny. From Powell Books

I chose Leyla: The Black Tulip by Aleve Lytle Croutier for two reasons: first, the face of the girl on the cover, dressed in traditional Turkish dress, piqued my interest, and two, I read the author’s blurb and was fascinated. 

Aleve Lytle Croutier was borned and raised in Turkey and  her international bestseller, Harem: The World Behind the Veil, Taking the Waters, and her novels The Palace of Tears and Seven Houses are all set in Turkey as is Leyla The Black Tulip. According to the Red Room, a blog about authors, all her work combines the Eastern tradition of storytelling with her Western literary education, searching the point where East meets the West. All her books are about strangers in strange lands, separation, and reunion--even Leyla: The Black Tulip, a novel for young readers (10-12 yrs) for the American Girl series.

It took me about two hours to devour the 179 pages of this book. Yes, it is short, but I really loved the story and the history in it. Croutier sprinkles Turkish words throughout the tale and provides a glossary of terms in the back. I imagine some readers might find this distracting, but the Geek in me found it fascinating and educational. Written for a younger audience, I would also imagine that most YA readers would find the plot too simplistic, but again, I liked the straightforward narration from twelve-year-old Leyla as she describes her journey from farm girl in the Causcasus Mountains to the sultan’s palace in Istanbul. Leyla is portrayed as a strong girl with a gift for growing tulips, which were greatly prized in Turkey, as well as a gift for painting that she learned from her father. With these gifts, Leyla is able to take some control of her life as a slave and fully accept her destiny or kismet as decreed by the Allah.

After reading this novel, I am definitely interested in reading Croutier’s other books, including her nonfiction. Leyla: The Black Tulip gave me a small taste of a country and history of which I lack understanding. I admit that it was difficult for me to accept Leyla’s ability to embrace her life as a slave because of a religious tenet (Kismet), but I chalk this up to my own Christian beliefs. However, reading books that offer insights into other societies and religious practices after all is what allows us to grow.  

1 Delicious Comments:

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Sounds fantastic and my kind of read. Thanks for this one!

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