A NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST
A young Armenian-American goes to Turkey in a "love thine enemy" experiment that becomes a transformative reflection on how we useand abuseour personal histories
Meline Toumani grew up in a close-knit Armenian community in New Jersey where Turkish restaurants were shunned and products made in Turkey were boycotted. The source of this enmity was the Armenian genocide of 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish government, and Turkey's refusal to acknowledge it. A century onward, Armenian and Turkish lobbies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to convince governments, courts and scholars of their clashing versions of history.
Frustrated by her community's all-consuming campaigns for genocide recognition, Toumani leaves a promising job at The New York Times and moves to Istanbul. Instead of demonizing Turks, she sets out to understand them, and in a series of extraordinary encounters over the course of four years, she tries to talk about the Armenian issue, finding her way into conversations that are taboo and sometimes illegal. Along the way, we get a snapshot of Turkish society in the throes of change, and an intimate portrait of a writer coming to terms with the issues that drove her halfway across the world.
In this far-reaching quest, told with eloquence and power, Toumani probes universal questions: how to belong to a community without conforming to it, how to acknowledge a tragedy without exploiting it, and most importantly how to remember a genocide without perpetuating the kind of hatred that gave rise to it in the first place.
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About the Author
Meline Toumani has written extensively for The New York Times on Turkey and Armenia as well as on music, dance, and film. Her work has also appeared in n+1, The Nation, Salon, and The Boston Globe. A journalism fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, she was also the coordinator of the Russian-American Journalism Institute in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Born in Iran and ethnically Armenian, she grew up in New Jersey and California and now lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents
Part One: Diaspora
1. When We Talk About What Happened
2. Summer Camp, Franklin, Massachusetts, 1989
3. "How Did They Kill Your Grandparents?"
4. A Real Armenian
5. False Assumptions
6. "With This Madness, What Art Could There Be?"
Part Two: Alternate Realities
7. "So You Are a Bit Mixed Up Now"
8. "Armenians Are Killers of Children"
9. January 19, 2007
Part Three: Turkey
12. Knowing and Not Knowing
13. How to Be a Turk
14. Official History
Part Four: Armenia
15. Country on Maps
16. Hello, Homeland!
Part Five: Power
18. The Narcissism of Small Similarities
19. Excess Baggage
20. Soccer Diplomacy
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, Toumani misrepresents Armenians and how many of us were brought up. I am the child of genocide survivors and I definitely was not taught to hate all Turks. I was taught to hate what was done to Armenians and to be aware when similar situations are engulfing other ethnic groups. If someone who is Jewish went to Germany to learn the language and lived among Germans to understand them better and their mindset, with the hope of finding ways of ’softening’ the response Jews have to the Holocaust it would be comparable to what Toumani did! The absurdity of it would be obvious. The Turkish state doesn't even recognize what they did. There is no other way that through hardcore research, into archives by historians which is fortunately being done, will we ever come to be in a better place than we are today. Fortunately, there are many other Armenians, too, who are working with Turkish colleagues and friends to come to resolution. I have been active in many Armenian organizations over the years, on local and national levels, but never heard of Meline Toumani. I don't know where her outrage at our community is coming from. It isn't as though she has tried to work for better ways of reconciliation and has failed. As far as I know, she has done nothing.