Former Mt. Airy resident Joy Stocke returns with tales from Turkey

From the 1987 to 1997, Joy Stocke lived and raised her child in Mt. Airy. But in 1997, she found a second home in Turkey, where she would go on to study its language and history back and forth until the present. Stocke recently detailed these treks with co-author Angie Brenner in the book Anatolian Day & Nights which was released on March 1. Stocke will return to her former home Mt. Airy for a book reading at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore on Sunday, April 1 at 2 p.m.

The book’s title reflects the “Anatolia” – the name given to the geographic region comprising Turkey.“The remnants of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires encompasses so much of geographical history,” Stocke says. “I felt as if I had opened the biggest box of chocolates.”A Milwaukee native, Stocke would go on to pursue a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin. Years later, a friend who married a Turkish man and had an upstart guesthouse business offered Stocke a chance to visit Turkey and work in the hotel and tourism industry. Stocke’s journalistic instincts told her that it could lead to a good story. During her time in Turkey, Stocke witnessed several global events and reported about them as a foreign correspondent. She wrote about the Izmit earthquake in 1999 that killed more 17,000 people for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the synagogue truck bombings of 2003, and interviewed Nobel Peace Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. She also spent most of that time traveling with co-author Angie Brenner, whom she met on a guesthouse balcony by chance. Trekking across a secular Islamic country  with another woman together allowed them to take chances Stocke says neither of them would have done alone. “We had a guide take us to the Syrian border one time. Neither of us would have gone alone, but we could trust him together,” Stocke says. Other times, her unique position as a lone foreign woman intrigued other Turkish woman to welcome her into their homes and compare fashion and lifestyles – something Stocke says would not have happened had she been with a man. Stocke says the Turkey she first visited in 1997 has changed a lot since then, especially after the  Sept. 11 attacks, and the ripple effects they had throughout global politics. “In 1997 turkey was going to modernize and join the Europen Union. Tourism trade opened up, the Mediterranean and Agean coast boomed,” Stocke says. Since 2001, Stocke says the country has looked more to exist autonomously outside of Europe and the West, while she noticed a rise in paranoia against Muslims in the United States. Writing about her immersion is one way Stocke says she can bring awareness to people about the complex intersection of culture and history found in a country like Turkey, although she also admits Turkey still has a long way to go regarding free speech and women’s rights. “Upon Turkey’s creation as a secular Muslim Republic in 1923, its founder [Mustafa Kemal Ataturk] expunged all history and created a new history,” Stocke says. “Now this third generation is starting to ask questions.”Stocke’s next challenge is writing a recipe book on Turkish food, again with co-author Angie Brenner.

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