|Born||25 October 1971|
|Occupation||novelist, essayist, academic, public speaker, women's rights activist|
|Notable works||Three Daughters of Eve, The Gaze, The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi, Honour, The Architect's Apprentice|
Elif Shafak, in Turkish Elif Şafak (Turkish: [eˈlif ʃaˈfak]; born 25 October 1971), is a Turkish-British novelist, essayist, academic, public speaker and women's rights activist. In English she publishes under the anglicized spelling of her pen-name Elif Shafak.
Shafak writes in both Turkish and English, and has published 16 books, 10 of which are novels, including The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love and Three Daughters of Eve. Her books have been translated into 49 languages and she has been awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
She is an activist on women's rights, minority rights and freedom of speech. She also writes and speaks about a range of issues including global and cultural politics, the future of Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, democracy and pluralism. She is a twice TED Global speaker, a member of the Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy in Davos and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). In 2017 she was chosen by Politico among the 12 people that will "give you a much needed lift of the heart."
- 1 Biography
- 2 Works
- 3 Areas of interest
- 4 Awards and recognition
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Shafak was born in Strasbourg to philosopher Nuri Bilgin and Şafak Atayman, who later became a diplomat. After her parents' separation, Shafak returned to Ankara, Turkey and was raised by two women: her mother and grandmother. She says growing up in a dysfunctional family was difficult in many ways, but growing up in a non-patriarchal environment had a positive impact on her. She grew up without a father, and she and her half-brothers met for the first time when Shafak was in her mid-twenties.
She incorporated her mother's first name—Turkish for "dawn"—with her own when constructing her pen name at the age of 18. Shafak spent her teenage years in Ankara, Madrid, Amman and Istanbul. She has lived around the world—Boston, Michigan, Arizona, Istanbul, before moving to the UK and making it her home. Shafak has two children. She lives in London and "carries Istanbul in her soul."
Shafak holds a degree in International Relations, a Master’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and a PhD in Political Science. She has taught at different universities in Turkey, the US and the UK. She was a fellow at Mount Holyoke College; a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, a tenure-track professor at the University of Arizona, and is currently[when?] a Weidenfeld Professor at St Anne’s College, the University of Oxford.
Shafak has published 16 books, 10 of which are novels.
Shafak's first novel, Pinhan (The Hidden) was awarded the Rumi Prize in 1998, which is given to the best work in mystical literature in Turkey. Her second novel, Şehrin Aynaları (Mirrors of the City), tells the story of a family of Spanish conversos, brings together Jewish and Islamic mysticism against a historical setting in the 17th century Mediterranean. Shafak greatly increased her readership with her novel Mahrem (The Gaze) which earned her the "Best Novel – Turkish Writers' Union Prize in 2000. Her next novel, Bit Palas (The Flea Palace, 2002), was shortlisted for Independent Best Foreign Fiction in 2005.
Shafak wrote her next novel in English, The Saint of Incipient Insanities, which was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2004.
Her second novel in English, The Bastard of Istanbul, was longlisted for the Orange Prize. In the novel, Shafak addresses the Armenian genocide, which is systematically denied by the Turkish government. Shafak was prosecuted on charges of "insulting Turkishness" (Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code) for discussing the genocide in the novel. If convicted, she would have faced a maximum jail term of three years. According to The Guardian, "[The Bastard of Istanbul] is perhaps the first Turkish novel to deal directly with the massacres, atrocities and deportations that decimated the country's Armenian population in the last years of Ottoman rule."
Ariel Dorfman says, "Mixing humour and tragedy as effortlessly as her two unforgettable families blend and jumble up the many layers of their identity, Elif Shafak offers up an extravagant tale of Istanbul and Arizona, food and remorse, mysticism and tattoos, human comedy and yes, massacres. Quite an exceptional literary feast."
Following the birth of her daughter in 2006 she suffered from post-natal depression, an experience she addressed in her first autobiographical book, Siyah Süt (Black Milk). In this book Shafak explored the beauties and difficulties of being a writer and a mother.
Shafak's novel The Forty Rules of Love focused on love in the light of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. It sold more than 750,000 copies in Turkey and in France was awarded a Prix ALEF* - Mention Spéciale Littérature Etrangére. It was also nominated for the 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her next novel Honour focused on an honour killing story, opening up a vivid debate about family, love, freedom, redemption and the construct of masculinity. It was nominated for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize and Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2013. “Shafak's wonderfully expressive prose, sprinkled throughout with Turkish words and phrases, brings the characters to life in such a way that readers will feel they are living the roles.” Shafak's novel The Architect’s Apprentice revolves around Mimar Sinan, the most famous Ottoman architect. "Filled with the scents, sounds and sights of the Ottoman Empire, when Istanbul was the teeming centre of civilisation, The Architect's Apprentice is a magical, sweeping tale of one boy and his elephant caught up in a world of wonder and danger."
The Sunday Times said “Shafak is passionately interested in dissolving barriers, whether of race, nationality, culture, gender, geography or a more mystical kind.” And the irish Times have called her, “The most exciting Turkish novelist to reach Western readers in years.” The New York Times Book Review says, “She has a particular genius for depicting backstreet Istanbul, where the myriad cultures of the Ottoman Empire are still in tangled evidence on every family tree.”
Her novel, Three Daughters of Eve (2017) is set across Istanbul and Oxford, from the 1980s to the present day, a sweeping tale of faith and friendship, tradition and modernity, love and an unexpected betrayal. In the Financial Times, Sadiq Khan chose the book as his favourite book of the year. “This is a truly modern novel — about the way we are shaped by politics, including freedom of expression and political repression, but also by our personal relationships.”
Siri Hustvedt said, "Elif Shafak's urgent, topical novel explores the ambiguities and dangers of being caught in the Land of Between. The book's protagonist, Peri, is torn between her mother and her father, between her love and hate for a charismatic professor, between the double lures of religiosity and secularism. Three Daughters of Eve upends the omnipresent but crude truisms of East and West, oppression and liberation, right and wrong that continue to divide, torment, and haunt us all."
Her nonfiction work covers a wide range of topics, including belonging, identity, gender, mental ghettoes, daily life politics, multicultural literature and the art of coexistence. These essays have been collected in three books: Med-Cezir (2005), Firarperest (2010), Şemspare (2012) and Sanma ki Yalnizsin (2017).
Shafak has written for numerous publications including The Guardian, Financial Times, La Repubblica, The New Yorker, The New York Times and Der Spiegel. Her work has been reviewed in numerous international publications, including The Washington Post, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, La Repubblica, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Die Zeit, El Pais, and Der Spiegel.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos 2017 she joined a panel discussion for BBC World on ‘Politics of Fear: The Rebellion of the Forgotten?’ with Ursula von der Leyen, German Defence Minister, Eric Cantor, Former House Majority Leader in the US Congress, and Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade. On EuroNews she joined a panel discussion ‘Is this the end for multi-culturalism?’ with Brendan Cox, U.S. historian Lonnie Bunch and Belgian deputy prime minister Alexander De Croo. She was also one of three speakers on a panel on “faith” alongside the Muslim Scholar Abdullah Bin Bayyah and the Chief Rabbi of the UK Ephraim Mirvis, moderated by Damien O’Brien, Chairman of Egon Zehnder. In July 2017, Elif Shafak was the ‘castaway’ on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.
Shafak has been a TED Global speaker. Her TEDGlobal 2010 talk has been viewed nearly 2 million times, and her 2017 talk has had over 1.5 million views.
The politics of fiction – Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.
The revolutionary power of diverse thought – "From populist demagogues, we will learn the indispensability of democracy," says novelist Elif Shafak. "From isolationists, we will learn the need for global solidarity. And from tribalists, we will learn the beauty of cosmopolitanism." A native of Turkey, Shafak has experienced firsthand the devastation that a loss of diversity can bring -- and she knows the revolutionary power of plurality in response to authoritarianism. In this passionate, personal talk, she reminds us that there are no binaries, in politics, emotions and our identities. "One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity," Shafak says.
Public speaking and literary judging
Shafak holds various roles. She is an active social media figure on Twitter and Instagram. Besides her professional titles, she is a TED Global speaker, founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations); member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on The Role of Arts in Society; a judge on Baileys Prize; a judge on MAN Booker International Prize; a judge on Goldsmiths Prize; a guest curate at Edinburgh Literature Festival; judge on 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and judge for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award; Ambassador of Culture Action Europe Campaign, 2010; Special Envoy for EU-Turkey Cultural Bridges Programme, 2010. She was awarded the honorary distinction of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2010. After Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell and Sjon, Shafak has been chosen as the next writer for the Future Library Project, a collection of 100 literary works that will be opened in 2114. Shafak is also an OSLO Freedom Forum speaker.
Prize judging history
- Judge for Goldsmiths PrizeGoldsmiths Prize, 2018
- Judge for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, 2017
- Judge for Man Booker International Prize, 2017
- Judge for FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, 2016
- Judge for the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction
- Judge for the 10th Women of the Future Awards, 2015
- Judge for FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, 2015
- Judge for Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards, 2015
- Judge for Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2014, 2015
- Judge for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, 2013
Areas of interest
Istanbul has always been a central part of Shafak’s writing. She depicts the city as a ‘She-city’ and likens her to an old woman with a young heart who is eternally hungry for new stories and new loves. Shafak has remarked: "Istanbul makes one comprehend, perhaps not intellectually but intuitively, that East and West are ultimately imaginary concepts, and can thereby be de-imagined and re-imagined." In the same essay written for Time Magazine Shafak says: "East and West is no water and oil. They do mix. And in a city like Istanbul they mix intensely, incessantly, amazingly."
In a piece she wrote for the BBC, she said, “Istanbul is like a huge, colourful Matrushka – you open it and find another doll inside. You open that, only to see a new doll nesting. It is a hall of mirrors where nothing is quite what it seems. One should be cautious when using categories to talk about Istanbul. If there is one thing the city doesn't like, it is clichés."
Feminism and women's rights
An advocate of women's equality and freedom, Shafak herself grew up with two different models of womanhood – her modern, working, educated mother and her traditional, religious grandmother. Her writing has always addressed minorities and subcultures, such post-colonialism and post-feminism, and in particular the role of women in society.
Following the birth of her daughter in 2006 she suffered from postpartum depression, a period she then addressed in her memoir, Black Milk: on Motherhood, Writing and the Harem Within which combines fiction and non-fiction genres. Shafak has commented concerning the book: "I named this book Black Milk for two reasons. First, it deals with postpartum depression and shows that mother's milk is not always as white and spotless as society likes to think it is. Second, out of that depression I was able to get an inspiration; out of that black milk I was able to develop some sort of ink." In an interview with William Skidelsky for The Guardian, she said: "In Turkey, men write and women read. I want to see this change."
Freedom of speech
Shafak is an advocate of women’s rights, minority rights and freedom of expression. In an English PEN letter to protest against Turkey's Twitter ban she commented: “Turkey's politicians need to understand that democracy is not solely about getting a majority of votes in the ballot box. Far beyond that, democracy is a culture of inclusiveness, openness, human rights and freedom of speech, for each and every one, regardless of whichever party they might have voted for. It is the realization of the very core of democracy that is lacking in today’s Turkey”. Shafak was one of the world authors who signed the open letter in protest against Putin’s anti-gay and blasphemy laws before Sochi 2014. Taking part in the Free Speech Debate, when asked about her role as a writer, she commented: "I am more interested in showing the things we have in common as fellow human beings, sharing the same planet and ultimately, the same sorrows and joys rather than adding yet another brick in the imaginary walls erected between cultures/religions/ethnicities."
Shafak is an inspiring speaker and writer on global politics, dangers of populism, dangers of tribalism and nationalism. Writing for The New Yorker, she said, "Although the Turkish case is in some ways uniquely depressing, it is part of a much larger trend. Wave after wave of nationalism, isolationism, and tribalism have hit the shores of countries across Europe, and they have reached the United States. Jingoism and xenophobia are on the rise. It is an Age of Angst—and it is a short step from angst to anger and from anger to aggression."
Mysticism, East and West
Shafak constantly blends Eastern ways of storytelling with Western forms of storytelling, and blends oral and written culture. In The Washington Post, Ron Charles says, “Shafak speaks in a multivalent voice that captures the roiling tides of diverse cultures. And, of course, as readers know from her previous novels “The Architect’s Apprentice”and “The Bastard of Istanbul,” it helps that she’s a terrifically engaging storyteller.” Vogue says, “Elif Shafak, has been building a body of work that needles her country’s historical amnesia.”
Awards and recognition
- The Architect's Apprentice, shortlisted for RSL Ondaatje Prize, 2015
- The Architect's Apprentice, longlisted for Walter Scott Historical Novel Prize, 2015
- Honour, second place for the Prix Escapade, France 2014
- Honour, longlisted for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2013
- Crime d'honneur (Phébus, 2013), 2013 Prix Relay des voyageurs
- Honour, longlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2013
- Honour, longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2012
- The Forty Rules of Love, nominated for 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
- Soufi, mon amour (Phébus, 2011), Prix ALEF – Mention Spéciale Littérature Etrangère
- The Bastard of Istanbul, longlisted for Orange Prize for Fiction, London 2008
- The Gaze, longlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2007
- The Flea Palace, shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2005
- The Gaze, Union of Turkish Writers' Best Novel Prize, 2000
- Pinhan, The Great Rumi Award, Turkey 1998
- Weidenfeld Visiting Professor in Comparative European Literature at Oxford University
- Joined Future Library, writing piece to be unveiled in 2114
- Caravan Award for Peacebuilding Through the Arts, 2017
- Prize for Tolerance in Thinking and Acting, Prize of Honour of the Austrian Booksellers, 2017
- Member of Berggruen Prize Award Committee
- WOW committee member
- Lahore Literary Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016
- Granted the Seal of the City and Certificate of Commendation by the City of Milan, 2016
- 2016 GTF Awards for Excellence in Promoting Gender Equality
- Cultural Leader; Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy, DAVOS 2016
- Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2015: Global Empowerment Award
- Board Member of Free Word Centre, which promotes literacy, literature and freedom of expression
- Member of English PEN
- Cultural ambassador for The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art/ BOZAR
- Women To Watch Award, Mediacat & Advertising Age, March 2014
- Member of the Folio Academy
- Chevalier Des Arts et Lettres, 2010
- Turkish American Society Young Society Leader, 2013
- Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on The Role of Arts in Society, DAVOS
- Marka Conference 2010 Award, Turkey
- Ambassador of Culture Action Europe Campaign, 2010
- Special Envoy, EU-Turkey Cultural Bridges Programme, 2010
- Turkish Journalists and Writers Foundation "The Art of Coexistence Award-2009"
- International Rising Talent, Women's Forum - Deauville, France 2009
- Founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations)
- Maria Grazia Cutuli Award – International Journalism Prize, Italy 2006
- Kem Gözlere Anadolu, 1994, Evrensel, ISBN 9789757837299
- Pinhan, 1997, Metis, ISBN 975-342-297-0
- Şehrin Aynaları, 1999, Metis, ISBN 975-342-298-9
- Mahrem, 2000, Metis, ISBN 975-342-285-7
- Bit Palas, 2002, Metis, ISBN 975-342-354-3
- Araf, 2004, Metis, ISBN 978-975-342-465-3
- Beşpeşe, 2004, Metis, ISBN 975-342-467-1 (with Murathan Mungan, Faruk Ulay, Celil Oker and Pınar Kür)
- Med-Cezir, 2005, Metis, ISBN 975-342-533-3
- Baba ve Piç, 2006, Metis, ISBN 978-975-342-553-7
- Siyah Süt, 2007, Doğan, ISBN 975-991-531-6
- Aşk (Translation of The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi), 2009, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-111-107-0
- Kâğıt Helva, 2010, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-111-426-2
- Firarperest, 2010, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-111-902-1
- İskender (translation of Honour), 2011, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-090-251-8
- Şemspare, 2012, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-090-799-5
- Ustam ve Ben, 2013, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-09-1803-8
- Sakız Sardunya, 2014, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-09-2291-2
- Havva'nın Üç Kızı, 2016, Doğan, ISBN 978-605-09-3537-0
- The Saint of Incipient Insanities, 2004, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-25357-9
- The Gaze (Translation of Mahrem), 2006, Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd, ISBN 978-0714531212
- The Flea Palace, 2007, Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd, ISBN 978 0714531205
- The Bastard of Istanbul (Translation of Baba ve Piç), 2007, Viking, ISBN 0-670-03834-2
- The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi, 2010, Viking, ISBN 0-670-02145-8
- Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within, 2011, Viking, ISBN 0-670-02264-0
- The Happiness of Blond People: A Personal Meditation on the Dangers of Identity , 2011, Penguin, ASIN B0069YVWOE
- Honour, 2012, Viking, ISBN 0-670-92115-7
- The Architect's Apprentice, 2014, Viking, ISBN 9780241004913
- Three Daughters of Eve, 2016, Viking, ISBN 9780241288047
NOTE: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd was bought out by Viking in 2011.
- "Elif Shafak". Curtis Brown. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
- Her name is spelled Shafak (with the digraph ⟨sh⟩ in place of the ⟨ş⟩) on her books published in English, including the Penguin Books edition of "The Forty Rules of Love."
- "Elif Şafak honored at French Embassy". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
- "Elif Shafak's TED Talks". TED. TED. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
- "World Economic Forum: Elif Shafak". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
- Varadarajan, Tunku (2 Sep 2017). "12 people who will make 2017 great again (in a good way)". Politico.
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- Kate, Kellaway (2017-05-02). "Elif Shafak: 'When women are divided it is the male status quo that benefits'". The Guardian New Review. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
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- "Orange newsroom - Orange Broadband Prize For Fiction Announces 2008 Longlist". orange.co.uk.
- "Edebiyatta rekor Aşk 200 bin sattı". hurriyet.com.tr.
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- "Best books of 2017: critics' picks". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
- "Elif Shafak: Three Daughters of Eve with Siri Hustvedt". Livestream.
- "BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs: Elif Shafak".
- BookBrowse. "Elif Shafak author biography". BookBrowse.com. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
- "Elif Şafak honored at French Embassy". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
- Flood, Alison (27 October 2017). "Elif Shafak joins Future Library, writing piece to be unveiled in 2114". The Guardian.
- "Speakers: Elif Shafak". Oslo Freedom Forum.
- Shafak, Elif (2006-07-31). "Pulled by Two Tides". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
- Shafak, Elif (2010-05-13). "The Essay: Postcards from Istanbul". BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
- Abrams, Rebecca (2010-06-18). "Elif Shafak: Motherhood is sacred in Turkey". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
- "Breaking down the boundaries". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2010-03-17.
- William Skidelsky. "Elif Shafak: 'In Turkey, men write and women read. I want to see this change'". the Guardian.
- "Major authors express Turkey concern". thebookseller.com.
- Alison Flood. "Sochi 2014: world authors join protest against Putin". the Guardian.
- "Elif Shafak on our common humanity". Free Speech Debate.
- Shafak, Elif (10 December 2016). "The Silencing of Writers in Turkey". The New Yorker.
- Charles, Ron (11 December 2017). "Elif Shafak's new novel is so timely that it seems almost clairvoyant". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
- Kerr, Michael (30 April 2015). "Ondaatje Prize 2015: shortlist announced". Telegraph.
- "Longlist announced". Walter Scott Prize.
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- "Crime d'honneur, lauréat du Prix Relay 2013 - Prix Relay des Voyageurs Lecteurs". prixrelay.com.
- "Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction » Honour". womensprizeforfiction.co.uk.
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- "News of the world: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize". The Independent. London. 2007-01-19.
- "Weidenfeld Visiting Professorship". St Anne's College, Oxford University.
- Flood,, Alison (27 Oct 2017). "Elif Shafak joins Future Library, writing piece to be unveiled in 2114". The Guardian.
- "Global Thinkers Forum: Awards for Excellence 2016". Global Thinkers Forum.
- Minter, Harriet; et al. (20 May 2015). "Asian women of achievement awards 2015: meet the winners". The Guardian.
- "Ad Age's Women to Watch 2014". AdAge. 27 May 2014.
- Salter, Jessica (14 November 2014). "Elif Shafak: 'I believe I'm not a good wife but I'm OK with that'". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
- "Marka 2010: Elif Shafak".
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- Today’s Zaman, 28 October 2006, Saturday / Anadolu News Agency (AA), Roma.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Elif Shafak.|
- Elif Shafak – official site (English)
- Elif Shafak – official site (Turkish)
- Elif Shafak at Curtis Brown Literary and Talent Agency
- Elif Shafak at TED
- "The politics of fiction" (TEDGlobal 2010)
- Elif Shafak on Twitter
- CNN Elif Shafak on The Power of Stories at TED
- Elif Shafak's Istanbul, CNN International
- Rebecca Abrams, "Elif Shafak: Motherhood is sacred in Turkey", The Guardian, 19 June 2010
- Elif Shafak 'Read My Country', BBC Radio World Service The Strand
- Novel excerpt in Bosphorus Art Project Quarterly
- Book Preview: Elif Shafak's "Black Milk": On Writing, Motherhood and the Harem Within, Qantara.de
- Urdu Translations of Elif Shafak's books, Jumhoori Publications
- Elif Shafak: 'In Turkey, men write and women read. I want to see this change'
- , Advertising Age
- , Telegraph
- Asian women of achievement awards 2015, Guardian