The journalist went on to become the spokesperson for the debate, taking charge of framing the demands of "Mihigrus", the term she uses in her book to refer to people with a so-called migration background. She wants "Mihigrus" to be understood as an "affectionate" appellation.

It is not immediately obvious, on the other hand, how all the other terms she has coined are meant to be taken – such as "Exclusive German", "Standard German", "Root German", "Homoallemanen" and "Original Member of the People". And how should "Germans on Probation" and "Trial Germans" be understood?

Humour not immediately obvious

Is this wordplay meant to be witty? If so, then it is not readily recognisable as such, even though Ataman emphasises in the introduction how important it is to her that the dispute should not be conducted acrimoniously. Ataman's humour works when she speaks, but not really when written down.

Gauging from the reactions to the book so far, Ataman's cheeky tone, her demanding nature appeal above all to "Mihigrus", particularly those who are familiar with the discourse and share the author's opinions. It is precisely these readers who feel confirmed in their positions by what Ataman writes, so the book is certainly helpful in terms of empowering Mihigrus.

But will her proposals for a constructive discourse on migration reach those who do not believe in an open society? Probably not – due to the author's brash nature and demanding attitude. Who wants to be told in an insolent tone what his or her attitude should be towards migration and an open society? The book is therefore not exactly helpful in changing the minds of people opposed to immigration and those who want to see restrictive migration policies implemented.

Empathy for the perspective of "Mihigrus" is by contrast aroused by another book that came out simultaneously with Ataman's polemic: "I am Ozlem". Dilek Gungor, likewise a daughter of Turkish migrant workers, chose the literary form for pursuing the question of origins.

The author has her first-person narrator look back at her childhood and youth in her search for answers to questions that others ask her, but which above all she asks herself – including questions regarding her origins. Ozlem takes stock without accusations, without reproach. She tells of how her typecasting by others has influenced her (self-)perception, her thinking and her behaviour.

Empathy for a change in perspective

Gungor tells her story in quiet tones, giving the reader insights into the memories and thoughts of the novel's main character. And that is precisely why she manages to arouse empathy – something that is rarely spoken of in the discourse on migration. And yet, empathy is essential for a change in perspective and the ability to understand people with hybrid identities.

Gungor has written a book that speaks to everyone in this society. And Ataman? On one of the last pages of her book we read: "I am writing this polemic because I have the impression that the many decision-makers are not responding properly to the pressure from the right." A noble motive. Nevertheless, before writing, Ataman should have looked more closely at the question of whether humour, irony and exaggeration are suitable stylistic devices for a book that seeks to draw attention to the pressure from the right and to stand up to the critics of an open society.

Canan Topcu

© 2019

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

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