post archive

Palestine


Wrens and Finches

Hudson River Valley Sky

 

 

When we were in the country over the weekend, I witnessed a house wren’s taking over the house finches’ nest on our front porch. The much smaller wren tossed the finches’ eggs out of the nest—two small blue eggs lay smashed on the porch floor. Then the wren flew up and down with twigs, using them to effectively barricade the nest so the finches couldn’t get back in. The wren is a noisy, bossy, pushy little bird, and initially I was referring to it as “the jerk.” I soon realized that the finches had found another spot to build a new nest and would lay more eggs, so I grudgingly began to admire the wren’s bubbly song, and energetic foraging.

 

Deer and rabbits (maybe also chipmunks and woodchucks?) ravaged the zinnias and nasturtiums in our garden, leaving untouched the salvia and marigolds. They also chewed to the root the parsley, but ignored the more odiferous herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, and tarragon. Someone uprooted one of the tomato plants, and nibbled some leaves off another. I went to the nursery and bought two more varieties of salvia, as well as flowering golden mint, and flowering basil—pretty but NOT tasty to deer and rabbits. The tall blue salvia almost immediately attracted the whirring wings of ruby-throated hummingbirds. At the nursery I also found a product called Liquid Fence, which is a smelly concoction of egg white, garlic, and thyme. When you spray it around the garden beds, it’s supposed to ward off the deer and rabbits, which apparently don’t like the smell. Wish us luck!

 

I’ve been working slowly but steadily on my novel about Armenians in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War—in the past few weeks I’ve been taking a break from writing, and have been doing immersive research. Ara Madzounian’s beautiful photos of Bourj Hammoud, one of the neighborhoods featured in my novel, give you a sense of the place as it is now. (Ara solicited writing from me for his 2015 book, BIRD’S NEST, and “Homage to Bourj Hammoud” was published as part of the PEN World Voices Anthology.) I’m completely engrossed by the research, and I’m starting to mull a return trip to Lebanon, likely in October, so I can fill in more pieces of the enormous jigsaw puzzle of Beirut during the Civil War that I’m building in my head.

 

As we mark the fiftieth year of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, there have been dozens of articles examining this sad milestone from various perspectives. One of my favorites is Yousef Munayyer’s “Reframing the 1967 War” in THE NEW YORKER. Yousef concludes, “Marking fifty years means that it is time to admit that the intention of occupation policies is not a temporary condition but a permanent one. It means recognizing that the Israeli state denies self-determination to millions of Palestinians who live there.”

 

My contribution to the Palestine Festival of Literature Anthology THIS IS NOT A BORDER, a piece entitled “Stories from the Armenian Quarter,” was published in The Armenian Weekly. Marcia Lynx Qualey, who writes the Arab Lit blog, wrote an interesting review comparing THIS IS NOT A BORDER to a similarly themed anthology entitled KINGDOMS OF OLIVES AND ASHES, which was edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. Ahdaf Soueif, novelist and founder of PalFest, wrote movingly for The Guardian about the festival’s ten years, and Chabon and Waldman were interviewed about their anthology on LitHub.

 

And for your additional reading (and viewing and listening) pleasure:

 

Almost a month after the incident, U.S. officials have announced that members of Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail who assaulted peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in D.C. on May 16 will be charged for their actions.

 

A sizzling piece by Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs about Hillary and Bill Clinton’s use of slaves in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.

From Atlas Obscura a great piece about the use of knitting to relay secret messages during wartime.

 

Funny or Die’s parody video about the President’s Personal Spray Tanner, played by Armenian actor Ken Davitian.

 

Pink Martini sings the Armenian pop song Ov Siroun Siroun.

 

Merriam Webster explains the difference between herbs and spices.

 

And finally, here is a beautiful piece by Siddhartha Mukherjee from The New Yorker entitled Love in The Time of Numbness; or Doctor Chekhov, Writer.

 

 

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City 2017

 

 


Land of Armenians

 

Lawn sign in Watertown, Massachusetts, 6/16

Last week I returned to my hometown of Watertown, Massachusetts to visit my parents, to do research for my novel in the archives of the two English-language Armenian newspapers, and to attend a board meeting of the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (otherwise known as NAASR). While skimming back issues for articles about the Lebanese Civil War, I found a small item in the Armenian-Mirror Spectator about myself: “Nancy Kricorian, a 9th-grade student at the East Junior High School in Watertown, was the winner of the recent Bicentennial Poster Contest and her poster becomes the official Town of Watertown Bicentennial Poster.” At the offices of the Armenian Weekly I fell upon an absolute treasure trove of reports about what was going in the Armenian precincts of Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War.

 

My parents and I had dinner on Friday evening at the Armenian Memorial Church’s annual fair, where I saw some old family friends and classmates. On Saturday when I walked two miles from my parents’ apartment complex to NAASR’s offices in Belmont, I passed a lawn sign that said, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” The message was printed first in Armenian, second in English, and third in Arabic. (I’m happy to report that because of my regular Armenian lessons I was able to read and understand the Armenian text.) On Saturday afternoon I stopped to pick up some fruit at Armenian-owned Arax Market, where I loved the Armenian conversations going on around me, and then I went to Armenian-owned Fastachi (they do mail order!) to purchase some nuts and chocolates for my family. I really hit peak East Watertown nostalgia on this trip, and felt deeply Armenian.

 

My compatriots are in the news lately. The New York Times ran a profile of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, “our midfield Armenian” who plays for Manchester United. Heno (his Armenian diminutive) is also called “the Armenian magician,” and you can see why if you watch this video of his breathtaking “scorpion kick” goal, which was ranked as the number one goal of the season. Forbes Magazine profiled Carolyn Rafaelian, the billionaire founder of bangle brand Alex and Ani. The Ajam Media Collective ran a piece about singer Seta Hagopian, the “Fairuz of Iraq.” Smithsonian Magazine featured an Armenian cosmetics company that is using ancient botanical recipes in their products. The Armenian Weekly posted a beautiful and moving tribute to Sarkis Balabanian (1882-1963), who risked his life to save hundreds of Armenian children during the Genocide. Michael Winship wrote a piece entitled “The Internet Won’t Let Armenia Go Away” that covers the propaganda war being waged by Turkey against The Promise, an epic Armenian Genocide film funded by the late Kirk Kerkorian.

 

Winship also mentions last week’s firestorm over Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to Washington, D.C. The meeting between Trump and Erdogan did not garner much press attention, but Erdogan’s bodyguards’ assault on peaceful protesters sure did. Around two dozen Kurds, Armenians, and leftist Turks, including young women, older people and children, had gathered to protest outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence during Erdogan’s visit. Erdogan’s security detail with the aid of some right-wing counter-protesters violently attacked the protesters, leaving eleven people injured, nine of whom were hospitalized. There was some speculation, based on several videos, that Erdogan himself had ordered his bodyguards to attack the protesters. Everyone from the Washington Post editorial page to Senator John McCain weighed in. The Turkish government went on the attack, blaming the D.C. police for their ‘aggressive actions’ and demanding an apology from the U.S. government. It is almost laughable that the Turkish government, which spends millions of dollars in the U.S. each year for lobbying and propaganda, a great deal of it focused on preventing efforts at Armenian Genocide recognition and a good part spent on demonizing Kurds, has generated so much ill will in such a short time.

 

On the literary front, the Palestine Festival of Literature has just finished its latest season, and next month its tenth anniversary anthology entitled THIS IS NOT A BORDER will be published by Bloomsbury. Having participated in PalFest in 2010, I was invited to contribute to the anthology and wrote a short piece called “Stories from the Armenian Quarter.” In advance of the launch of her second novel (twenty years after the publication of her first novel THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS), Arundhati Roy was profiled in VOGUE. She will be doing a nine-city North American tour in support of THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS. We will be going to the Brooklyn event at BAM.

 

On the film front, I will shamelessly plug two films produced by my spouse. If you haven’t already, you should watch Kitty Green’s brilliant, disturbing, and moving “hybrid documentary” CASTING JONBENET on Netflix. James has just returned from the Cannes Film Festival where Jean-Stephane Sauvaire’s PRAYER BEFORE DAWN, which will be released in North America by A24 later this year, received a ten-minute standing ovation at its midnight premiere.

 

And that’s it for my newsy news report (in which I have not until now mentioned glowing orbs, Russia, or cruelty budgets).

 

P.S. If you’d like to receive this type of post as a newsletter in your inbox, you can sign up here.

 

 

Nancy Kricorian

 


The Women’s March and the Long Struggle Ahead

 

To be part of a crowd of over half-a-million people is an experience both intimate and abstractly large. Three moments during the speeches at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. particularly held that balance for me. Sophie Cruz, a six-year-old girl whose parents are undocumented immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, moved us all to tears with her beautiful and elegant words, spoken in English and then in Spanish, saying, “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage, so that our families will not be destroyed.” African-American civil rights activist and revolutionary Angela Davis told the assembled, “We dedicate ourselves to collective resistance.” Linda Sarsour, an organizer from New York City and one of the national co-chairs of the march, declared herself “unapologetically Muslim-American, unapologetically Palestinian-American, unapologetically from Brooklyn, New York.” She went on to tell us, “If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where to go, because when we fight for justice, we fight for it for all people, for all our communities.”

 

It was an exhilarating, exhausting, and empowering experience to take to the streets with hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children who are determined to fight against the Trump Administration and its assaults on women, the disabled, immigrants, the indigenous, LGBTQ people, our public educational system, our environment, and our civil and human rights. I couldn’t help but remember other mass mobilizations I have joined. In 2003 millions of people took to the streets around the globe in attempt to prevent the Iraq War. George W. Bush dismissed us then, saying he didn’t pay much attention to “focus groups.” We were unable to stop the Iraq War, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, destabilized the entire region, and led eventually to the horrible carnage and destruction we have been witnessing in Syria. Marches and rallies are important sources of strength and inspiration—but that strength must be used for the long struggles that follow.

 

I was pleased to learn from newspaper reports that the huge defiant crowds only steps from his seat of power enraged Donald Trump, and I have to believe that if we are able to harness the passion and determination of so many people taking political action for the first time, that we will be able to protect our most vulnerable individuals and organizations. If we succeed, our cities will become sanctuaries for the undocumented, our states will enact legislation mitigating the harms coming from Washington, and our mass civil disobedience against gas pipelines and other projects that threaten our air and water will engulf and stop corporate pillage. We will wrest control of the Democratic Party from the neoliberal establishment that backed the disastrous candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and put accountable elected officials into office. But I have to be honest. I’m afraid, and I’m unsure of exactly where best to focus my energies when the attacks on the values and institutions I care about are coming not daily, but hourly.

 

For now I join the ranks of my friends in Palestine, where Trump’s collaboration with the Israeli right wing will cause untold suffering. I join my friends in Armenia, who struggle every day against the kind of kleptocracy Trump now installs here in the U.S. I join my friends in Turkey, where harshly repressive measures are targeting journalists and academics, and in its Kurdish region, where violence has destroyed much of the architectural heritage of Diyarbakir’s Sur and where many communities have been subject to state terror.

 

I join a global community that struggles against tyranny and amplifies the humane in the human. As American writer and activist Grace Paley put it: “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” I hope, because I act.

 

Nancy Kricorian

January 2017

New York City

 

Written for Agos Turkish-Armenian weekly
https://web.archive.org/web/20170126065707/http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/17561/trumptan-sonra-umut-ve-eylem

 

 

Nancy Kricorian


How to Survive Dark Times

Greenpeace activists unfurl “Resist” banner near the White House, 25 January 2017

 

Marching in Washington, D.C. this past weekend with over half a million women and our allies was exhilarating, exhausting, and inspiring. My particular favorites among the many rally speeches were by six-year-old Sophie Cruz, the child of undocumented immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico; revolutionary and civil rights activist Angela Davis; and Brooklyn’s Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour, who was one of the national co-chairs of the march. I was happy to learn that the massive crowds of protesters who far outnumbered those who had attended the inauguration the day before had enraged Donald Trump. But even as we marched, I recalled the mass mobilization of millions of people in 2003 hitting the streets around the globe in an attempt to prevent the Iraq War. George W. Bush dismissed us, saying he didn’t pay much attention to “focus groups.” Street demonstrations, marches, and rallies are important sources of strength and solidarity, but the energy must further be harnessed to long-term organizing and campaigns if we are to protect our most vulnerable neighbors, organizations, and institutions.

 

On Monday morning the grim reality of life under the Horsemen of the Apocalypse hit like a two-ton bomb when the “global gag rule” was reinstated, and hours later the attack on Medicaid was launched. How are we going to survive four years of this shit? I will be honest, I’m scared, and I’m not sure where to focus my efforts when the blows against the values, groups, and individuals that I care about are landing on an hourly basis. I’m still trying to identify the best vehicles for local organizing—because I think we will have more leverage on the local level.

 

This morning I came up with a prescription for myself. How to survive in dark times? Celebrate one moment of beauty and participate in one act of resistance each day. For myself, I take solace in the spectacular sunrises on Morningside Drive, and the sunsets in Columbia County. Other beautiful things include flowers, birds, trees, and the faces of my silly dogs, my beloved family, and cherished friends. Before bed, I’ve also been reading a book called What the Robin Knows, which has been filling my dreams with robins, chickadees, cardinals, jays, and blackbirds.

 

In terms of resistance, right now we all need to be contacting our elected officials on a weekly basis to let them know that we want them to oppose the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Take a half hour to make a list of your elected officials with their contact information: senators, congressional representative, governor, mayor, and city council member, or the equivalent depending on where you live. (If you don’t have the half hour, you can use this handy and simple to use 5 calls tool.) You can start by contacting your senators and telling them to vote NO on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. The best option is to call their offices—if you have trouble getting through in D.C. or the state capital because the lines are jammed, try the regional offices. (The other day I was able to speak with a human in Chuck Schumer’s Binghamton office.) Here are some helpful tips from a Congressional staffer about making phone calls that a friend of mine posted publicly on FB. Send post cards rather than emails (electronic communications have become a kind of white noise). Post cards are quicker than letters because envelopes must go through a security check.

 

Want to do more? You can sign up with for the Women’s March 10 Actions/100 Days Campaign. Pledge to join the People’s Climate Movement in D.C. on April 29. Find a local group organizing around an issue you care about through the Action Group Network. Get connected with Stand with Standing Rock. Join Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rapid Response Network in organizing against attacks on Muslims and immigrants. Read this terrific interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, or her equally inspiring piece on how to build a mass movement. Frances Fox Piven tells us to Throw Sand in the Gears of Everything, Naomi Klein instructs us in how to prepare for the first shocks of Trumpian disaster capitalism. Grace Paley said, “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” I act, therefore I hope.

 

 

Nancy Kricorian


Horsemen of the Apocalypse

“Satan bound for 1000 years” from The Great Bible of Pieter Mortier (circa 1700 A.D.)

 

When I have been calling Donald Trump’s roster of cabinet members and advisors “The Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” I have meant this term both metaphorically and literally. The metaphorical part has to do with the doom, chaos, and destruction I believe they are planning to unleash on national institutions, groups, individuals, and even the globe. The literal part has to do with the end times Evangelical Christians in their ranks. Trump’s cabinet picks are a mix of craven business leaders looking to enrich themselves and their friends as they pillage the public commons, and Evangelical Christians with perhaps similar goals, but a different world view. I have been focused on this aspect of the cabal because I was raised in an Evangelical Christian church and household so this cult is familiar. (Here’s a poem that talks about the anxiety this caused me as a child.) It turns out that 81% of white Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump.

 

END TIMES THEOLOGY

 

What is their “End Times” theology and how does it mesh with Trump’s worldview? In an op-ed from September 2016, history professor Matthew Avery Sutton explained it thus:

 

Trump’s ideas meld perfectly with evangelical apocalyptic expectations as the battle of Armageddon nears. He promises to seize power and to use it for them. He claims he would restore religious liberty to evangelicals. He would prohibit Muslims from entering the country. He would defend Israel at all costs. He would fight abortion by adding conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. He would rebuild the American military. He would destroy the nation’s enemies. He would keep individual citizens well-armed and prepared for battle.  

This is a man, in other words, who is not just seeking to beat Clinton. He is seeking to wage a real-world battle against evangelicals’ enemies and a spiritual battle against the Antichrist.

Vice President elect Mike Pence is an Evangelical Christian. He belongs to the College Park Church in Indianapolis. (You can read a transcript of a 2011 sermon delivered at the College Park Church that covers the Second Coming of Christ.) Betsy DeVos, who was named as Trump’s choice for Education Secretary and is the sister of Blackwater founder Eric Prince, is an Evangelical Christian. Some of the other prospective cabinet members are somewhat cagey about the specific brand of Christianity they practice, but based on my experience and understanding of the dog whistles and “secret signs” used in this particular cult it seems that Nikki Haley (UN Ambassador) and Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency), Tom Price (Health and Human Services) are also adherents.

What are the real world impacts of this theology? For one, Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate-denying Environmental Protection Agency pick, has publicly stated his intention to dismantle the Obama Administration’s climate agenda. It turns out that many End Times Evangelicals are not concerned about Global Warming because they believe the warming of the planet and concomitant disasters are either caused by God’s direct intervention or are signs pointing towards Christ’s Second Coming and the end of the world. Why worry about melting ice caps, calamitous hurricanes, drought, famine, flooding, and war when you believe it is all part of God’s Biblically ordained plan and a sign of your imminent ascension to heaven?

 

ANGLING FOR ARMAGEDDON

Another fairly alarming aspect to this End Times theology has implications for U.S. policy towards Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. Evangelical Christian-Zionist groups such as Christians United for Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (in the occupied West Bank) champion unconditional support for the Israeli government because it fits into their vision of what needs to happen in order to hasten the return of Jesus.  Right-wing Zionists in the U.S. and Israel receive Christian Zionist support for Israel and for Jews with enthusiasm, but the underlying belief system of Christian Zionism is at best utilitarian in its vision of Jews. The founding of the state of Israel has been interpreted as one of the first signs of the nearness of Christ’s return, fulfilling a prophecy made in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  The only way that Jews can be “saved” is if they abandon Judaism and convert to (Evangelical) Christianity, so during the Apocalypse, most Jews will suffer the terrible fate of all other non-believers of either eternal hellfire, the Tribulation, or both. (At one point, I was fairly familiar with at least one version of the Second Coming timeline, but it is complicated and based on arcane interpretations of both Old Testament and New Testament Prophecy.) End times theology predicates Christ’s return on the destruction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Third Jewish Temple. Right-wing Israeli settlers have plans to rebuild the Temple that would provoke a violent uprising by Palestinians and an international crisis. Christian Zionists are playing with proverbial fire in their support for Israel’s settlement enterprise, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Judaization of East Jerusalem. In their designs on the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they are literally angling for an apocalyptic battle of Armageddon in the Holy Land.

 

 

Nancy Kricorian


An Armenian-American Translated Into Arabic

Nancy page

 

This week, because of the interest and good offices of my friend poet and editor Najwan Darwish, Al Araby in London published an interview I did with Elise Aghazarian. I met Elise and her family in Jerusalem and Ramallah during the 2010 Palestine Festival of Literature. Elise also translated my short prose piece “Homage to Bourj Hammoud.” (The English version can be found here.) I wish that I could read Arabic, but I have heard from friends that Elise did a beautiful job with both the interview and the translation. I love the photo of children playing in Sanjak Camp that she chose to illustrate the Bourj Hammoud piece.

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Gaza One Year Later: A Tale of Two Eids

One year ago, the people of Gaza were in the middle of  Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge,” a 50-day assault that resulted in the deaths of over 2,100 Palestinians, including 551 children. This essay by Enas Fares Ghannam, a young writer in Gaza whom  I am mentoring as part of the We Are Not Numbers project, was written during Ramadan this year as she remembered the fear-filled Eid of the summer of 2014. 

Enas Fares Ghannam in Gaza

Enas Fares Ghannam in Gaza

 

It was the day of Eid; It was another day of war; It was a time to celebrate; It was a time to die; people were praying the Eid prayer; people were praying the funeral prayer; people were decorating their houses; people were evacuating their houses; we were all going directly to heaven; we were all going directly to living hell; it was time to despair; it was time to feel hope; children were playing in swings; children were dying in swings; people were visiting to wish happy Eid; people were visiting to wish mercy for the dead. Last year’s wartime Eid was entangled in my head with this year’s peacetime celebration

The war started during the month of Ramadan last year. Ramadan is the Muslim holy month when the Quran was revealed. We fast from sunrise to sunset for the sake of Allah. At the end of Ramadan we celebrate a Little Eid, which Allah gives to us as a reward for fasting during the Holy Month. Three months later we celebrate Big Eid, which follows the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This is when we sacrifice a goat for the sake of Allah.

*

I was in the kitchen in the middle of Ramadan last year, with my mother, preparing pizza and meat pies for Iftar, the time after sunset when we break our fast. The food looked delicious and smelled even better, especially because I was so hungry. There was an hour left until Iftar, so I went to my room, opened my laptop computer and started to follow the news about what had happened in Shujaya and the other places in Gaza.

Suddenly I heard a very loud explosion. White dust was everywhere, and I didn’t know what had happened.

My four brothers came and they were all screaming, “A missile hit the balcony. Get out right now.” One of my brothers went close to the balcony to make sure it had been hit, when another missile struck the same place. We all knew that we had to get out of there immediately. Everyone gathered on the ground floor; the children were in shock; no one said a word, but their white faces told everything about their feelings. While we were leaving a third missile hit the house. Our large family left in three cars, going different directions. Two brothers went to the homes of their respective in-laws. I was in the car with my third brother, his family and my parents. He was driving crazily, and I thought if we didn’t die from an airstrike we would definitely be killed in a car accident. We reached the house of my grandmother, which we thought would be safer, as the call for the prayer for Iftar rang out. We were all shaking involuntarily. I was trying to appear strong as we sat around my grandma’s table with the food she had prepared for her and grandpa that was now to be shared by us all, but my trembling hand holding the spoon exposed my true state. I suddenly remembered the meat pies sitting on our kitchen table, now either under a cloud of white dust and debris or entirely destroyed.

*

The little Eid of last year is still in my memory. I particularly remember when I woke up; I looked around; it was dark, no electricity, just a slight of light coming from the only window in the room. My father, mother and I were sleeping on mattresses. The day before wasn’t as joyful as last day of Ramadan usually is.

We are usually so excited to welcome the Eid. Together, with my mother, sisters, and sisters-in- law, we prepare the Eid cookies with dates. It’s part of our Eid that we serve Arabian coffee and these cookies to the guests. The night before the Eid I sit with my father and mother with loads of chocolate, toys and balloons before us, and prepare them for the children, so each one of them has a small plastic bag full of them.

*

After a week and a half staying with our relatives, I was in desperate need to go back home. I felt that I was being suffocated in this place with three families jammed together in a few rooms, the sound of explosions from afar, and the sad faces of the children. When I knew that I was going back to our home during the truce, which had just been declared, I felt like I was able to breathe again.

The roads were crowded; people were returning to their houses. Everyone was dressed in black or somber colors. I was wearing my black Abaya as well. I don’t usually wear black or an Abaya during Eid, but this time it was not possible to wear anything else; we were grieving for the dead. Without any discussion, we all dressed for mourning, feeling that wearing any other color would be a betrayal of the souls of the martyrs.

The moment I entered the house the telephone rang; I answered and heard the recorded voice of an Israeli soldier saying in broken Arabic, “Cooperate with us, you saw what happened in Shujaya and Khuzaa. Know that there is no safe place in Gaza for any of you.” My heart was beating violently.

I had heard before that people receive these calls. There are two kinds of calls, threatening ones like the one I received, and ones with a direct order to evacuate, which I feared to receive. I was shaking, listening for the word evacuation. I was imagining the situation, in seconds all kinds of scenarios passed through my head. How will we leave? Will we actually leave? Yes I guess. But how difficult it will be, to leave everything behind and go. What if anything happened to any one of my family? Then I recalled the faces of each one of them. I tried not to think of that. Can I take anything? Then I remembered how I barely had time to put on my hejab the time we fled the house because of the missile attack.

The voice stopped talking, and I hadn’t heard the order. I hung up the phone. I didn’t tell anyone about the call; I thought they would worry more, and I didn’t want to leave the house where we had all gathered during the truce for a family meal.

We were happy to see each other after a week-and-a-half separation, but we were afraid, too, that anything might happen or that the truce would be broken.

My nephew came and sat next to me, and then he asked me, “Auntie, what is the name of this Eid?”

“It’s the Little Eid,” I said.

He seemed suspicious.

Despite the horror we felt at the death and destruction all around us, I still remember the light in my heart at seeing them and sitting with them around the table for lunch, as though it were a normal Eid. In spite of little food, and the smell of the fear that controlled us while the drones buzzed over our heads, we were laughing from the heart. It had been many days since we had gathered at a table as a family.

Suddenly we heard explosions. On the radio we heard that children had been shelled when they were playing on a swing set in the beach refugee camp. Israel had broken the truce. There were bombs everywhere. We were afraid our home might be shelled again at any minute, so we hastily prepared to leave in our separate directions once more.

I was hugging everyone goodbye, and when I leaned down to embrace my nephew, he whispered in my ear, “You must be wrong. This is the big Eid; many people are being sacrificed.”

 

by Enas Fares Ghannam

 

This essay originally appeared on the site of the We Are Not Numbers Project.

Nancy Kricorian


You too can receive this newsletter

Pie Chart by Nicola Griffith

Pie Chart by Nicola Griffith

 

Since a few months before the launch of All the Light There Was, I have been sending out a newsletter to friends, family, and interested readers. Below is my latest missive with instructions on how to sign up to receive the newsletter yourself.

5 Jun 2015

Dear Friends,

Well, I didn’t go to Book Expo America as planned. I was flattened by a virus and had to cancel pretty much everything for the week. I was sad to miss the event at the Republic of Armenia pavilion, and even sadder to miss a private dinner with Archipelago Books and translator Maureen Freely to celebrate the publication of Sait Fait’s A Useless Man: Selected Stories. While I was sick in bed, I read and loved the stories—the working class people, the scenes in and around Istanbul, and the humane, often melancholy, and yet sharp voice of the narrator.

For the past two months I have been enjoying Skype calls and email exchanges with a young Palestinian writer and translator in Gaza as part of a mentorship program called We Are Not Numbers. Please read the first harvest of our collaboration: Enas Fares Ghannam’s piece, FORCED: A Story from Gaza.

An article I wrote entitled “Choosing ‘Co-Resistance’ Rather Than ‘Turkish-Armenian Dialogue’” for the hard copy of Armenian Weekly’s April 2015 Armenian Genocide Magazine posted online last week.

And for those who are following the upcoming Turkish elections, you might find this amusing: Erdogan accused journalists, gays and Armenians as being ‘representatives of sedition’ through supporting the opposition, Kurdish-friendly HDP party. In The Nation, Maria Margaronis offers a good overview of the issues at stake in this election, along with some paragraphs about Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorative events in Istanbul.

At the end of May a novelist named Nicola Griffith wrote an essay about the fact that books about women tend not to win big awards and a second piece on the topic that offered solutions. Nothing in the data Griffith collected was surprising (disheartening yes, surprising no), but the pie charts were great. The inimitable Ursula Le Guin also wrote an excellent piece entitled Up The Amazon about Amazon, books and capitalism that I highly recommend.

Thanks, as always, for your support and interest. Please feel free to forward to a friend. Anyone can sign up to receive this newsletter by sending a note to nkbookgroup@gmail.com.

Best,

Nancy Kricorian

 


A Story from Gaza by Enas Fares Ghannam

Under the aegis of We Are Not Numbers, I have been working as a mentor to a talented young Palestinian writer and translator based in Gaza. I’m thrilled to present the first harvest of our collaboration: Enas Fares Ghannam’s short fiction piece, Forced: A Story from Gaza, which was inspired by a true story.

 

 

Enas Fares Ghannam

Enas Fares Ghannam

 

 

Forced: A Story From Gaza

 

The three days of mourning ended. Ruba and her 4-year-old daughter Yasmin were staying with her in-laws after their own home was destroyed in the summer war. Ruba sat on the bed with Yasmin next to her, looking at the photo album from her wedding that she managed to rescue.

Ahmed, her husband, was a medic. During the summer assault on Gaza by Israel, he was rarely at home. He wasn’t at the house on the day she received a phone call from an Israeli soldier telling her she had only two minutes to evacuate the house. Ruba had quickly picked up her daughter and grabbed a few things—this album among them—and fled. Two minutes later the house was bombed. Two days later, she received the news that the ambulance her husband was in also was bombarded, and the blast had been so powerful it was hard to identify the bodies.

“And this is when we entered the wedding hall, “Ruba said to her daughter, pointing at a photo of the bride and groom. Ruba was wearing a white dress, while Ahmed held her arm and pressed her palm close to his heart.

For four months and 10 days she stayed at home with her parents-in-law for her Eda (the legally prescribed mourning period before a widow is allowed to remarry in Islam). Sad as she was, grieving and really unable to think of anything, others in the family had plans for her. Her sisters-in-law were always grumpy with her. Her parents-in-law talked most of the time with their three surviving sons, alone. She didn’t understand at first, but then it became clear when she heard them talking about Yasmin.

One afternoon when Ruba was within earshot, her mother-in-law said in a low voice to her husband, “How can we accept our granddaughter Yasmin living at someone else’s house? Ruba is young; she will marry one day for sure. Better she should marry one of our sons and stay in the family.” Ruba’s heart started to beat fast and she was afraid. She recalled the image of her sisters-in-law, sitting together in a corner whispering to each other, and looking worried during the mourning period. They were afraid of her; she would become a second wife to one of their husbands.

When Ruba decided to avoid the problem by returning to her family, her parents-in- law told her that she would have to leave Yasmin with them. So she stayed.

Muhammad, Ahmed’s younger brother, had been married to Dina for four years without children. Dina—the shy girl who barely spoke at the beginning of her marriage—had found comfort in the company of Ruba. In time, they became close friends, confiding almost everything to each other. Dina was afraid her husband would take another wife so he could have children, but Ruba kept telling her that Muhammad wouldn’t do that. As she nodded her head in agreement, Dina knew in her heart that his mother would one day convince him.

The mother-in-law decided that Muhammad and Ruba should get married for the sake of Yasmin. But Ruba, unable to betray her husband or to do such a thing to her friend, refused.

Ruba took Yasmin to visit her family and didn’t come back.

But Ruba didn’t have job or a provider. Her father was dead, and her brothers could hardly manage to provide for their own families. Her parents-in-law, trying to pressure her to marry Muhammad, didn’t offer any help or money for their granddaughter.

When Muhammad and his parents arrived at her parents’ house with a formal proposal, Ruba was confused. Muhammad was sitting on the same sofa that Ahmed had sat on six years earlier. She couldn’t help but compare the two brothers. Ahmed was lively and talkative. He made everyone laugh. His brother Muhammad was reserved. He didn’t talk unless someone asked him a direct question. It was his mother who brought up subjects to make him talk.

What about Dina? Ruba thought, as she imagined her friend crying. Ruba then remembered her own words to Dina: “Muhammad won’t do this to you.” Ruba felt angry at herself, at her helplessness and the bombing that had flattened her home and killed her husband, putting her in this terrible situation. “What if I could find a job?” she asked herself, with a glimmer of hope. “I could depend on myself. I wouldn’t need anyone to support me, and no one could tell me what to do.”

Yasmin gripped Ruba’s hand. Ruba looked at her daughter, who was so often isolated and lonely these days. There was no one to protect or defend the child anymore. Yasmin had stopped going out to play with the other children. She seemed older than her five years.

“Arrogance won’t do me or my daughter any good,” Ruba thought. “It’s better to be Muhammad’s wife than to marry anyone else.”

As if someone else was talking, as if someone else was thinking, Ruba said yes, feeling deep in her heart that she was making a big mistake, but not knowing what else to do.

Five months into her new marriage, Ruba was living with Dina, who barely talked to her except to argue. The door opened; Dina and Ruba, who walked slowly with her right hand on her back and the other on her growing belly, welcomed Muhammad. His face was white, and he was unable to speak, holding a paper in his hand

“What’s wrong?” Dina asked.

“We received a letter from an Israeli prison,” Muhammad whispered.

“Israeli prison?” asked Ruba. “Who do we know in there?”

Muhammad, looking into her eyes, said: “My brother Ahmed; he’s alive.”

 

 

By Enas Fares Ghannam

 

 

This story originally appeared on the web site We Are Not Numbers

 

Nancy Kricorian


Letter to Palestine (With Armenian Proverbs)

 

 

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In a foreign place, the exile has no face.

You wake up in the morning and forget where you are. The smell of coffee from the kitchen. The sound of slippers across the linoleum floor. It could be any country.

When you look in the mirror you see the eyes of your grandfather. He expects something from you, but he won’t tell you what.

Better to go into captivity with the whole village than to go to a wedding alone.

The fabric was torn. With scraps you have made a tent, you have fashioned a kite, you have sewn a dress, you have wrapped yourself in a flag.

They have separated you with gun, grenade, barbed wire, wall, prison, passport. They have underestimated your will.

The hungry dream of bread, the thirsty of water.

Passing from one village to the next, without obstacle, without document, without your heart thumping up near your throat.

Turning the key in the lock, you enter through a door you have never passed through before except in your grandmother’s stories and in your dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Kricorian

First published in Clockhouse Review, Volume 2, 2014.

I read this piece at the PEN World Voices Festival Armenian Genocide panel on 6 May 2015, as reported in The Guardian.