German twitter was full of mentions of Ellbogen, and since it’s not easy to find diverse books published in German, I knew I had to read it. It turned out to be a whole lot more than just a contemporary novel.
Ellbogen is the story of how Hazal, a Turkish German girl, makes a mistake and the consequences of this mistake.
Note: I am writing this review as a person with Eurasian background living in Germany – not Turkish.
The book is told through Hazal’s perspective. She uses a lot of slurs, which made it difficult for me to get into the book – I almost didn’t continue reading it as I did not like her at all! However, one gets the feeling that she is growing up throughout the book and that she is a product of her situation. I can’t decide how I feel about this, it was difficult reading some of her thoughts about certain people, however it did fit to the character. Hazal is not a very likable character. I really enjoyed the scenes with Elma (her friend) and Semra (her aunt). They brought a lot of confidence to the story and called Hazal out on some problematic actions.
It’s really quite contemporary. While reading this book, I kept finding text passages that reminded me that some people in Germany still generalise a lot and that a lot of people also use slurs in daily conversation. The Cologne incident of New Year’s Eve (2015-2016) is mentioned. This still affects the discussion about discrimination in Germany to this date. I know a lot of POC that have internalised racism and there were a few examples of this in the book. Thus, I think the representation was great and on the point.
It’s a very angry story about the problems that Turkish Germans face in Germany, and this is conveyed in the writing. The writing was easy to follow and the pacing was suitable to the storyline.
It ended with a cliffhanger, which does not suit the nature of the story. I would have preferred if it had a more definite ending.
I would have liked it, if Hazal had learnt that slurs and generalisations should not be used or done.
All in all
Hazal makes a lot of questionable remarks throughout the book. If you don’t want to read a book that has slurs and misconceptions about certain groups of people, I wouldn’t read it.
I still think that a 4 star rating is warranted (Edit: changed to 3 stars), as I felt like it represented the present situation that some POC experience in Germany very well. I could find myself relating to some of the scenes, and my anger about racism in Germany was mirrored in this book.
Edit: I’m changing the rating to 3 stars, as I feel like the slurs and misconcenptions should have been called out or discussed in the text and there were too many to ignore.
This review is part of the German Diverse Books project (#DeutscheDiversityBücher). The book is only available in German.
If you’re Turkish German and you wrote a review on Ellbogen, I’d love to be allowed to share your link in my review.
Have you read Ellbogen? Would you want to read it (if it was available in English)?