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THERE WAS AND THERE WAS NOT: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond

Events | Headline and Cultural Forums

Armenian-American journalist Meline Toumani examines the legacy of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the complex role it plays in her own identity. Frustrated by the all-consuming nature of her community’s quest for genocide recognition, Toumani decided to do the unthinkable: pick up and move to Istanbul.  In what she described as a “love thine enemy” experiment, she  spent four years conducting interviews with Turkish scholars, visiting the remains of Armenian villages, and building a complicated life in Istanbul. The resulting record of that time, There Was and There Was Not (a 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist) is a transformative and controversial reflection on the complex forces of ethnicity, nationality and history that shape one’s sense of self and foster, threaten or fray the fragile tapestry of community; as well as a vivid picture of Turkish society in the throes of change.

As the 100th anniversary of Armenian genocide approaches, Toumani very boldly asks hard questions about what it means for a diaspora, created from and later galvanized by a tragedy, to move forward and flourish, and reflects on how we use—and sometimes abuse—our personal histories to make sense of our lives.

Toumani reflects on what it really means—and does not mean—to come into the inheritance of a tragic past; on the complex feelings involved in confronting a historical enemy; and on what we owe—and do not owe—to our collective identities and what to ourselves. . .” —Eva Hoffman (author, After Such Knowledge: Memory, History and the Legacy of the Holocaust)

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. She has been a journalism fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, and a 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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