An American daughter captures the personal history of her mother, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.
Though long denied by the Republic of Turkey, the ritualized ethnic cleansing and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Armenians from 1915 to 1917 is one of the great horrors of modern history. It also presents both survivors and subsequent generations with the thorny conundrum of memory and cultural identity–specifically, how to confront the crimes we have been told to forget. Ahnert delves into these issues in this moving portrait of her mother, Ester, who personally experienced these terrible events. With delicate intimacy, the author interleaves the remembrances of her 98-year-old mother with her own recollections of their personal relationship. â€œThis is the story of us, told together,” she writes. At just 15 years old, Ester was separated from her family during a forced march from her home town of Amasia, a mountain village in what is now Northern Turkey. Abused by soldiers and forced to marry a vindictive Turk, Ester eventually escaped to find a new life overseas. â€œThe only thing I brought with me to America was my memory,” she says, â€œthe one thing I most wanted to leave behind.” The dichotomy between Ester’s graphic recollections of rape, murder and other atrocities and Ahnert’s obvious affection for her mother is occasionally startling, but the net effect is poignancy rather than sensationalism. The author struggles with her own uncertain feelings about her heritage, but her mother’s story is what will stick with the reader–Ester’s stirring sense of humor, her unflagging faith and remarkable fortitude in the face of nearly impossible odds.
A riveting, draining and reflective account of how people prevail over awful fortunes.