Elif Shafak blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling, bringing out the voices of women, minorities, subcultures, immigrants, and global souls. Born in Turkey in 1971 and raised in Spain, Jordan, and Turkey, Shafak has addressed the Armenian genocide, the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, and honor killings, among other subjects. In describing her writing style, she said, "I write with humor about sadness, to introduce an element of sweet to the sour, a bit like Turkish food." In her extensive editorial work, she has focused on identity, gender, politics, multiculturalism, women's rights, freedom of expression, and the loss of democracy and persecution of journalists in Turkey. Defying clichés and transcending boundaries, her work draws on different cultures and cities, and reflects a strong interest in history and philosophy.
Her book The Happiness of Blond People: A Personal Meditation on the Dangers of Identity, examines the lived experiences of immigrants and the backlash against multiculturalism in response to the influx of millions of Muslims in Europe. It begins with her observation, as she stands in line at the airport, of a Turkish father expressing bewilderment at the cultural differences he's experienced since immigrating to northern Europe:
"You know, I never understand. How come their children are so quiet and well disciplined?" "Yeah," said the distressed father, his voice suddenly softer. "Blond children never cry, do they?"
She writes in both English and Turkish and has published 15 books, 10 of which are novels. They include The Bastard of Istanbul (2007), The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi (2010), Honor (2013), Three Daughters of Eve (2016), and her genre-crossing memoir Black Milk: On the Conflicting Demands of Writing, Creativity, and Motherhood (2011). Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages. She has taught at various universities in Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, including the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona. She is currently the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor in Comparative European Literature at Oxford and lives in London.