Root and Branch by Eda Gunaydin
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.