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There Was and There Was Not: A Journey…

There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in…

by Meline Toumani

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Meline Toumani is an Armenian-American who grew up in New Jersey. The Armenian-American community that she associated with during her childhood devoted a lot of energy to boycotting all things Turkish and working for genocide recognition by the US government. As she gets older, she begins to question this hardline stance against Turkey and the single issue politics of genocide recognition.

When she is an adult, she decides to travel to Turkey as a journalist, to meet with people from various backgrounds and learn more about the country that was taught to hate as a child. She is convinced that if she can report about civil, honest conversations with people from different backgrounds, the two sides will begin to understand each other and they can begin to work towards peace.

After spending time in Turkey, she discovers everything is a lot more complicated than she realized, including her own prejudices. The title of the book, There Was and There Was Not, comes from a traditional start to Turkish and Armenian stories, meant to illustrated the complicated nature of the story. This is not meant to indicate that every story contains equal truth, but rather that every story is imperfect and influenced by perspective and bias.

This book was really well written and very readable. The book was not meant to be completely objective, it is as much a memoir as anything else and Toumani is very honest about her personal reactions to people she meets and situations she encounters. I learned a lot, not so much about the genocide itself, but rather about how reactions to those events are still so prevalent in modern society. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
A review of historical cultural conflict, the inability of Turks to accept the history, and the reasons why ( )
  clifforddham | Apr 23, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had so much trouble getting into this book. There wasn't a real hook for me, and I kept reading it one page at a time, never feeling the urge to keep going. I have read books in the past regarding the Turkish-Armenian feud that I found fascinating but this author's writing style just didn't do it for me. I think it would be interesting to some people, but unfortunately, I am not one of them. ( )
  l-mo | Dec 31, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Judging by all the stellar reviews, I am probably the wrong audience for this book. I found it boring and kept waiting for something of import to happen or to catch my interest. I made it 1/3 through the book and had to give up. Memoirs and books about social issues are my favorite genres but this was disappointing. I gave it two stars as it might be interesting if you are Armenian or Turkish. ( )
  Suzanne81 | Dec 7, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A fascinating personal examination of the conflict between Turks and Armenians that asks us to reflect on the compounded impact of denial and distrust, on the roles of individuals and communities, and on how the stories we tell come to define us and others, perhaps inescapably. ( )
  seidchen | Nov 22, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805097627, Hardcover)

A young Armenian-American goes to Turkey in a “love thine enemy” experiment that becomes a transformative reflection on how we use—and abuse—our 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:30 -0400)

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