Beyazit Akman, Ph.D. candidate and teaching assistant in the Department of English, was invited to speak at international book fairs in Frankfurt and Istanbul this past fall. He returned to Illinois State’s campus after completing a prestigious summer fellowship at the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, D.C. with great news to share. Not only was his research enormously successful, but his novel, The World’s First Day, a 700-page historical novel about the multicultural relations of the Ottoman world, has received extraordinary praise. The novel is now printed in the sixth edition and is reaching 30,000 copies sold in Turkey.
At the Smithsonian, Akman was able to answer questions he had about their presentation of Middle Eastern cultures in the Western discourse: how travelogues offer an alternative explanation to cultures’ understanding of the east-west discourse and how the history of Christians and Muslims can help people become more accurate in today’s world. His findings include narratives which defy Orientalist binaries, particularly the ones used to portray the Ottomans in British travel narratives, novels and historiographies.
Akman states that the so-called “clash of civilizations” should be contested in the context of both canonical and non-canonical texts. The historicization of concepts such as Orientalism and Islamophobia are vital for a healthy assessment of the post-9/11 discourse. Akman’snovel ultimately reflects his scholarship and archival research in a more accessible genre. Through his novel, Akman questions issues of co-existence and the roots of Islamophic discourse. The world of the Ottoman classical age is also presented with avid detail. The civilization has had very little recognition, Akman states, even though it was the second greatest empire after the Romans.
Akman is currently working on his dissertation and the second book of the series. He is also in the negotiations for the novel to be turned into a historical drama TV series and a major movie production.