There Was and There Was Not by Meline Toumani

There Was and There Was Not

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 historiesMeline 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 ...

Details There Was and There Was Not

TitleThere Was and There Was Not
Release DateNov 4th, 2014
PublisherMetropolitan Books
GenreNonfiction, History, Autobiography, Memoir, Travel

Reviews There Was and There Was Not

  • Jaylia3
    Though I was well aware of the conflict between Armenia and Turkey I was fuzzy on the details so the first thing I appreciate about this deeply felt book is that it brought me up to date about a still relevant enmity that dates back at least as far as the massacre of 1915. What I found at least as interesting and valuable has, I think, an even broader relevance--the author's personal quest to find a path to some kind of reconciliation between two...
  • Adelle Waldman
    This is a terrifically smart and original book that is both important and a pleasure to read because it is so psychologically astute and beautifully written. It is about an Armenian-American writer who grew up being told that Turkey was the enemy As an adult, she decided to move to Turkey and learn the language to try and see if it was somehow possible to move beyond demonization without compromising her identity as an Armenian or her loyalty to ...
  • Louise
    Meline Toumani’s discussion of the issues surrounding Armenians, Turks and the genocide of 1915 begins in the USA. She writes of the Armenian summer camp she went to as a child where, along with sports, canoeing, singing, Saturday dance night, she got the message about 1915. One quote from the camp’s newsletter says: “It’s fun to be at Camp Haiastan because it’s fun to learn how people died.” An evening speaker begins “Tonight we ar...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    An advanced reader copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher, after my request. All quotations are not in their final form and may not appear in the printing, but I wanted to include a few tastes of what to expect.Meline Toumani is an Armenian-American who was born in Iran. After a childhood saturated with the Armenian genocide, she decides to take a trip to Turkey to try to get a more balanced view. I admire her tenacity and curiosit...
  • Alex
    There Was and There Was Not is a fantastic book - insightful, informative, and beautifully written. Although I am not Armenian, I empathized strongly with the author's exploration of group identity and history. Writing this book was clearly not an easy choice for her, and there are no easy answers to questions she raises. What does it mean to be an open, freethinking individual and still respect your family, your culture, and the history of your ...
  • Blue
    First of all, I have to congratulate Meline Toumani for such a brave book, for a first book, and a daring attempt to break out of the very strict restraints one's identity can impose on the self.Second of all, I should say, "I am Tunc." Readers have to read the book to understand what this means, but reading Toumani's account of her travels to Turkey, her interactions with Turks, Armenians and Turkish-Armenians made me think that if I were like a...
  • Victoria
    This is one of those books that after finishing, I am just so thankful that I heard about it and read it! The author, an Armenian born in Iran but raised mostly in America, decides to try to better understand the nation that she has been raised to hate - Turkey. Though the 1915 genocide takes up the forefront of the book - not in its re-hashing of details, but in the lingering reverbations throughout both Armenian and Turkish societies (and natio...
  • Caroline
    An important and in depth memoir that explores personal and national identity. Specifically, this book is about Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide, but it provides broad lessons and insight into the role history and culture play in how we relate to each other. Still, Toumani is wise not to make these connections for the reader and focuses strictly on Turkish-Armenian relations. This book is exactly what I love to read: an exploration of diff...
  • Katie
    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 ...
  • Caryn Jackson
    I heard the author on NPR and was interested in the subject matter (Armenia and Turkey, what do I know about these countries ... nothing) and the point of the book (is it possible for Armenians and Turks to not hate each other). As an Armenian but US born woman in her early 30's, the author spent several years living in Turkey to understand the fractious relationship between Armenians and Turkey and whether that relationship is mendable -- the bo...
  • Laura
    This was a remarkable book for me. As the granddaughter of a genocide survivor, this book was a very personal experience. I know my own family history and have read survivor's memoirs, history, and historical novels. So, I know the basics of the issue. Meline Toumani takes the issue of genocide recognition and the reconciliation with modern day Turkey to whole new level. This is not an obvious take on the issue and will likely offend many Armenia...
  • Nicole Means
    A beautiful story about one woman’s quest to find legitimacy.
  • Stephanie
    Horribly boring and redundant. Read a history book on the subject if you want to learn about the discourse between Armenians and Turks.
  • Trish Remley
    I enjoyed this book on several levels and was upset on many levels. After going to Turkey last year, it was fun to remember and relive so many of the unique customs & people's personalities. Also some of the customs that I did not experience myself, but that Eileen has talked about like going to have soup late at night after a night out or lowering a basket down on a rope with money and the local store bringing you the food or goods you need. The...
  • Hal Carim
    Meline Toumani - "There Was and There Was Not" (Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş / ժամանակին / Zhamanakin) is an honest and courageous book by an Armenian-American journalist who travels to live in Turkey and Armenia; to meet and discuss the Armenian Genocide/Soykırım, across the spectrum - starting with her roots in the American Diaspora; with Turks of all shades: Republican "White", Conservative "Black", Pious Western "Grey"; Kurds including...
  • Karenn
    Toumani, like many diasporan Armenians, is raised in a close-knit family within the larger Armenian community. Upon the realization that much of her identity as an Armenian-American is based on the Armenian Genocide, which has left her with a mistrust of anything Turkish, she decides to actually move to Istanbul, learn Turkish, and live among Turks for two years. Her experiences show her both how much she has in common with at least certain segme...
  • Steve
    The Armenian genocide is a often forgotten tragedy, yet hundreds of books have been written on the subject. After 100 years of historical research and recollections, it seems there would be little new ground to cover. But Toumani found a new and modern perspective on the events of 1915. It is important to discuss and understand the history, but it is also important to understand how the history affects both Armenian and Turkish people today. Toum...
  • Karen
    There Was and Their Was Not is a memoir by a Armenian American woman who felt constrained and suffocated by the Armenian community's quest for recognition of the genocide. Hoping to understand the Turkish perspective and connect with authenticity and understanding she spends several years in Turkey. This is a book about individual identity in the context of community especially where there has been historical and present day trauma. Ms. Toumani's...
  • Alyce
    "There was and there was not" is the "Once upon a time" of Turkey and Armenia, and it's the perfect title for Tourmani's exquisite exploration into the relationship between facts and feeling in the telling of history- in this case, of the 1915 death of 1 1/2 million Armenians under Ottoman rule. Although I am neither Turkish nor Armenian, I found that the marriage of the author's rare insight, honesty, wisdom, objectivity, exhaustive research and...
  • Marion
    I learned so much from this book and have great respect for Toumani for being willing to challenge the perspective she learned growing up, for being willing to go to Turkey, for exploring the effect of the words we use - and those we omit. What makes most sense to me was Toumani's discussion of the role of power - Turkey has it and Armenia does not, and Turkey is too scared to lose power to be able to change their attitude toward minorities and A...
  • Hannah
    Discussing Armenia and Turkey in the same book, their issues, especially surrounding 1915, is a very difficult thing to do. Toumani handles the subject with unusual amounts of grace and honesty. I cannot say that I am entirely unbiased, being married to a Turk, but I agree with much of what Toumani says and was intrigued by her writing, even on points I didn't agree with. Definitely a worthwhile read for those interested in Turkey-Armenia relatio...
  • Emily
    I truly admire and appreciate Meline Toumani's work. This book made me recognize and examine my own prejudices more than any lesson I can remember. The subjects she examines are important not only for Armenian/Turkish issues, but for ethnic conflicts everywhere. I learned a lot, thought a lot, I'm glad I read it, and I hope that her place on the short list for the National Book Critics Circle Award will earn her a wide readership.
  • Dlmrose
  • M
    Beautifully honest. This book is framed by a very political issue but centers more on the human aspect. A very evocative narrative of the search for identity within history and culture.
  • Shelley
    "if we don't ask questions about why and how genocide happened, we are left with the explanation that most Armenians have settled on - that "Turks are just the sort of people who do these things." In other words -racism. I loved this book because it asks the simple question that we all want to know - why is there racism. Why can't people get along. The author moves to Istanbul, learns Turkish and makes friends with both Armenians and Turks, disco...
  • Magali
    It took me almost two years to finish this not because it isn't excellent but because I almost never read nonfiction and because this was such a personal story from someone I know and respect deeply. Meline asks, and answers (at least for herself) a question that I, for very different reasons, am also struggling with and have been for years: is coming to terms with and ultimately rejecting an identity, however toxic it may be for you, ever easy? ...
  • Joy
    Heavy, complex. A demanding read that requires an engaged brain. In the end, I wasn't certain I connected as fully as I should. Couldn't discern if that was more about my deficits as a reader or the complex arc of the story having lost my desire to read. I made myself finish reading it (I don't quit on a book), but wasn't certain the main character (the writer as narrator) made a dynamic enough of a change to reward my efforts. I DID learn a lot ...
  • Sean Binkley
    Great Insider PerspectiveAn impressive book. I admire the author's willingness and ability to look beyond her own biases and acknowledge the humanity of people she has no reason to empathize with, while also being critical of those same people's views. Her perspective on the issue of Armenia, Turkey and the Genocide is enlightening
  • Aubrey Stapp
    Excellent read, clear and informative, easy to follow, interesting, it's just wonderful. Makes me want to visit Armenia and Turkey, and I feel like I have a greater understanding of the culture and therefore the behaviors, which is always good.