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“Family honor demands it.”

Couscous Express was published in 2001 by AiT/Planetlar. Its authors are Brian Wood and Brett Weldele. Becuase it has no page numbers, I will begin counting with page one as the first page of the story proper, which begins with the words “Olive Yassin: age sixteen.”

Couscous Express has an odd passage on pages 46-49. Olive, sixteen-year-old daughter of Turkish immigrants, has just purchased a sniper rifle. (She has contacts with gunrunners—her boyfriend Moustafa is a “mercenary courier” who does everything from smuggle guns to escort “political personnel to and from embassies” [p. 8]. Where she got the money to buy a sniper rifle is unclear, unless her gunrunner friends are just loaning it out. Later, she gets some grenades.) Moustafa’s partner Special is going to teach her how to shoot, but Olive doesn’t need the help: she’s a perfect shot. Her explanation for her skills? “I got cable tv. I know how to shoot. Jesus” (p. 49). Remember a few years ago when there was a minor scare about computer games because some of the perpetrators in school shootings played Doom? Well, Olive’s a step up from that—she doesn’t need to play games to practice shooting, she learned to be an expert sniper just by watching movies! There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for her shooting skills (Moustafa doesn’t let her use guns, she got the sniper rifle behind his back), so I guess we can take her at her word. Olive succeeds in her fights against the Turkish Scooter Mafia because she’s immersed in American pop culture.

So… what? Olive is better because she knows how the story goes? This comes up a little at the end, too, when Olive half-mockingly—and not too convincingly—admits she’s finally learned the importance of Family and stuff. Couscous Express doesn’t deal with this theme much beyond the sniping-practice scene, but it’s what jumped out at me when I read it. It seems connected to assimilation into American culture, leaving behind old traditions and casting about for something to hold onto in their absence. These are the big themes in Couscous Express. Olive has the rebellious American teenager thing down so perfect, she’s stuck in a place where she can’t have a relationship with anybody without screaming “Fuck you!” at them. The only steadying force in her life is Moustafa, who gives her her one basically non-dysfunctional relationship. She’s racing into a nasty dead end (rebellious teenager schtick), pursued relentlessly by the old (Turkish Scooter Mafia), but in the end she’s rescued by the criminal fraternity of mercenary rollerblade couriers and a violent American-style action story…

Weird little story, but fun.


  1. Rose says:

    The one thing that bothered me about Couscous Express is that I couldn’t figure out why anyone would go to the trouble of creating a Turkish scooter mafia and then not make them particularly Turkish. If Olive had had a vaguely Turkish name (or was her dad an Arab? I don’t recall) and they’d had a traditionally Turkish recipe at stake, I would have been a lot happier. But then again, that’s because I’m both something of a Turkophile and absolutely obsessed with names, so I don’t think this is a normal reaction.

    — 17 June 2004 at 2:33 pm (Permalink)

  2. Steven says:

    I think Olive’s dad was Arab, but I don’t remember clearly. If hummus isn’t a traditionally Turkish recipe, though, that does seem a little strange, since the point was that it was ancient and traditional.

    — 17 June 2004 at 2:48 pm (Permalink)