Several weeks ago, at a local rummage sale, I came across the book A Fez of the Heart by Jeremy Seal. It took a few moments to realize this paperback was one I'd purchased in 1994, lent to a friend, and never got back. So, I drove a hard bargain, and bought the book for 50 cents, happy to have a second chance at a reading it for the first time.
Jeremy Seal's account is a travelogue of his time spent in Turkey, searching for the origins and present day occurrences of a hat — the Fez. His interest in the fez brought him to Istanbul to begin a journey around Turkey, seeking actual wearers and historical information related to the country, the culture and its hats.
While I'm not an expert on Turkey, I enjoyed his description of the country and its history, particularly the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey. I learned a bit more about Turkey's history and the sometimes unusual blend of East and West, and of course quite a bit about Turkish headgear.
Probably the most interesting part of the book for me came at the 3/4 mark. Jeremy is given a hand-made Fez by an elderly hat maker and feels compelled to wear it on the street. As the Fez is technically "illegal" in Turkey and has cultural significance for Turks, this was a larger challenge than it might appear. Seal becomes quite self-conscious in his be-fezzed state, and receives added notice and scrutiny all the way back to his hotel — before removing and hiding his fez.
While Jeremy's travelogue-style account isn't what I'd consider a historical reference, it did increase me curiosity about Turkey's history. Several of the book's Amazon reviewers challenge Seal's history and information, so I do plan on exploring books like Turkish Reflections : A Biography of a Place by Mary lee Settle for more historical detail.
Still, historical accuracy and personal opinions of Seal aside, I looked forward to reading this book each night before bed, and passed the 100 page mark quickly. I found it an interesting perspective on Turkey, Turkish cultures and the Turkish people themselves.
As the book ended, I found myself drawn to learning more about the Turks and their country. I don't know if I'll have the honor of visiting Turkey, but I feel this book put the spark in my mind and heart to consider it, should the opportunity arise.