Root & Branch: Essays on Inheritance

Eda Gunaydin

Root & Branch: Essays on Inheritance
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Root & Branch: Essays on Inheritance

Eda Gunaydin

I have come to see that I am an argumentative person who is frequently convinced that my angle, my take, on a matter, is the right one. This kind of delusional self-belief is not rewarded in many other spheres of social life, so I write essays.

There is a Turkish saying that one’s home is not where one is born, but where one grows full - doğduğun yer değil, doyduğun yer. Exquisitely written, Root & Branch unsettles neat descriptions of inheritance, belonging and place. Eda Gunaydin’s essays ask: what are the legacies of migration, apart from loss? And how do we find comfort in where we are?

‘In Root & Branch, Eda Gunaydin’s essays showcase the fine craft of a writer whose seemingly dispassionate observations set a wide stage for astute, deeply considered reflections on place, people, politics and power. It takes immense skill to weave personal narratives seamlessly into broader conversations and complex social commentary. To do so in an effortless manner, as Gunaydin has accomplished, is pure alchemy. This is a book I will revisit many times for both the beauty of its language and for the generous opportunities to think and learn alongside the writer. A moving, thought-provoking and truly stunning debut.‘ - Eileen Chong

Review

Root & Branch is the debut essay collection from Eda Gunaydin, a Turkish-Australian writer and academic. Gunaydin’s essays cover a wide range of topics: class, wealth, post-colonisation, whiteness, having children, emotional abuse, mental health, being a child of migrants. The complex relationship between Gunaydin and her neurotic mother and unknowable father underpins many of the essays. Largely, Gunaydin asks how class shapes our perceptions of the world – while interrogating how Australian society is often unwilling to acknowledge the impacts of class on identity and experience.

Gunaydin’s book comprises 12 essays. Highlights for me were ‘Second City’, ‘Kalıtsal’, and ‘Doğduğun Yer, Doyduğun Yer’. In ‘Second City’, Gunaydin questions what it means to be from Western Sydney, exploring debates into whether Parramatta counts as Western Sydney, and whether such a place really exists at all. ‘Kalıtsal’ – hereditary – is a long personal essay examining Gunaydin’s relationship with her father and her introduction to communism, often told through dialogue with her psychologist. ‘Doğduğun Yer, Doyduğun Yer’ – froma phrase translating to ‘your homeland is not where you are born, but the place where you grow full’ – closes the collection, broadly exploring Turkish diaspora through Gunaydin’s travels back to Turkey and Germany, seeing class mobility and gentrification through a new perspective.

Root & Branch is a collection of strong personal and intellectually sophisticated essays, with a range of styles and tones that will suit readers who prefer narrative nonfiction and more academic writing. I appreciated the peppering of Turkish dialogue throughout, sometimes translated but often left to stand for itself, decentering the white monolingual reader. Gunaydin herself mentions the writers she’s been told she writes in a similar way to – which I won’t spoil – and suffice it to say, readers who enjoy the work of Ellena Savage, Maria Tumarkin, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Behrouz Boochani will be absorbed and impressed.


Clare Millar is from Readings online

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