Each human has voices inside his head. Those voices are either united making a human complete or — in most scenarios — they fight with each other inside a human brain and one of the voices benefits at the expense of others until some other voice takes over.
Elif Shafak’s head was also a messy one with 4 voices in her head which increased to 6 overtime – fighting, winning, losing. Elif was a single young woman, traveling and making her career as a writer, all while trying to grasp herself.
At the age of 35, when she was still against marriage, she met Eyup at a tavern in Istanbul and ended up marrying him in Berlin. At 37, when she was still horrified at the idea of having kids, she got pregnant and ended up giving birth to a daughter. With every miracle, her head got messier and then, after two months of delivery, she could not save herself from falling into Postpartum depression which affects a lot of new mothers. Despite the fact that she was irritated by her voices, she loved them and her depression locked all those voices and engulfed her.
What was worse? She could not do the only thing she loved more than any other: write.
Black Milk unfolds her struggle of making peace with the voices in her head and getting out of the Postpartum depression after the birth of her baby in 2006. Along with that, Elif Shafak tells the stories of the personal and public lives of various women writers. To me, it seemed like she was trying to interpret her life keeping their lives in view but in the end, decided to discover her own path while acknowledging theirs.
Black Milk gives an impression of Elif’s journal. She has fearlessly talked of her vulnerable brain exposing herself as a woman, a writer, and a mother. For me, as a woman writer, Black Milk put me in awe. Writing such a book was indeed something a writer hardly dares to do. Most of the autobiographies talk about the outer struggles of a writer; Elif Shafak has aimed the book on her inner struggles.
Since this book highly deals with feminity and writer-hood, I would suggest this book in the first place to women writers. In the second place, this book is for all women. In the third place, I would keep male writers. If the genre interests them, male readers can give it a read too. Though, somehow, I am sure they will leave the book midway.
I would always be grateful to Elif Shafak for this book since I cannot stop thinking of writers, writing, and books. The sound of tapping at the keyboard has become my favorite music. What better gift for a writer than this?
Back to Elif Shafak: After her daughter, she gave birth to a son. At the end of the book, she tells her readers:
Our daughter’s name is Shehrazad Zelda – the former from the charming storyteller of the east, the latter from Zelda Fitzgerald. Eighteen months later we had a son, Emir Zahir – the former from the old traditions of the East, the later from the story by Borges, “The Zahir,” and a book by Paulo Coelho, “The Zahir.”
Elif sure is a crazy woman. May history never forget her. Amen.