My Grandmother: A Memoirby Fethiye Cetin, Maureen Freely (Translator)
When Fethiye Cetin was growing up in the small Turkish town of Maden, she knew her grandmother as a happy and universally respected Muslim housewife. It would be decades before her grandmother told her the truth: that she was by birth a Christian and an Armenian, that her name was not Seher but Heranush, that most of the men in her village had been slaughtered in 1915, that she, along with most of the women and children, had been sent on a death march. She had been saved (and torn from her mother’s arms) by the Turkish gendarme captain who went on to adopt her. But she knew she still had family in America. Could Fethiye help her find her lost relations before she died? There are an estimated two million Turks whose grandparents could tell them similar stories. But in a country that maintains the Armenian genocide never happened, such talk can be dangerous. In her heartwrenching memoir, Fethiye Cetin breaks the silence.
“My Grandmother ... refuses to be sidetracked by the issues it raises: it is a tribute to the woman, an expression of shared pain, and a plea for reconciliation. That it was a bestseller in Turkey should tell you something.”—Guardian
“Gripping and thought-provoking ... Spare and elegant ... This moving testimony transcend politics and brings the Armenian tragedy to life with tenderness as well as sadness.”—Independent
“Sober and heartbreaking.”—Financial Times
“The author’s acute sensibility and ear for detail set this account apart ... two brave voices ring through this book: hers and her grandmother’s.”—New Internationalist
“A remarkable book.”—Irish Times
“This is a story that cries out to be told.”—Tribune
Cetin recounts the 1915 Armenian genocide, when the Turks sent thousands of Armenian people to their deaths. After they rounded up the men, they slit their throats, and marched the women and children until most of them died. Literally snatched out of her mother's arms, Christian-born Heranus was rescued from death by a Muslim gendarme who brought her up as the Muslim girl Seher. Treated as a servant by his wife, Seher eventually married the son, and unsuccessfully searched for her family. The Turks euphemistically called the Armenians "converts," or those who have impure blood. Those who survived the marches were called "the leftovers of the sword." Cetin was an adult when she learned of these horrors and of her grandmother's original family; and her grandmother implored her to help find them, which Cetin set out to do. It is not always clear who is narrating, and Cetin often tells readers something through one individual and then again through another. In spite of these slight problems, My Grandmother is a fascinating account of a story that needs to be heard by teens. It well deserves to be used in world history class, or as a biography for genre assignments in English classes.-Ellen Bell, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA
- Verso Books
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Meet the Author
Fethiye Cetin is a Turkish human-rights lawyer who has represented, among others, Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist assassinated in Istanbul in January 2007. This is her first book.
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There aren't too many people in Turkey who could exhibit the kind of personal courage and integrity shown by Cetin in not only writing this book but endeavoring to honor her grandmother's legacy. The book is an act of supreme love towards a woman who obviously meant so much to the author. It is another important brick in the foundation towards mutual understanding between the two peoples and does alot to protray the events with honesty.