19 April 2014

A Personal Book Review

I didn't think I could add much to the many excellent reviews already on Amazon and Goodreads for "Not Even My Name" by Thea Halo. The official publisher's blurb too, describes the book well. But what I can contribute, I have decided, is a personal response.
I chose to read "Not Even My Name" because like Sano, the main "character", my grandparents fled Asia Minor to escape slaughter by the Turks. Where she went to America, my grandparents (from both my mother and father's sides) went to Greece. I cannot say "back" to Greece, since my ancestors, the Pontic Greeks, had been living on the shores of the Black Sea since ancient times. Family folk lore and legend has it, that we are descended from Jason and the Argonauts.

In the very next generation, my parents fled poverty and political oppression, and came to Australia. Three successive generations of my family have been born on different continents. 
I turned 50 a few years ago and perhaps because of this, I began to take an interest in my family's past. I have discovered that genealogical research is somewhat difficult when your ancestors are displaced people! So I have begun reading books about the Greek, Assyrian and Armenian genocide (c1914-1923) to get a feel for the times that my grandparents lived through. 
Unlike Thea Halo, the author of "Not Even My Name", my parents did not have access to my grandparents' first hand accounts of the "Asia Minor Catastrophe". My father was orphaned at the age of 3 or 4, and my mother lost her father when she was 10 or so. Her mother was a remote figure, working away from home from Monday to Saturday to support 6 children. By the time Mum might have thought to question Yiayia about her life, she was living on the other side of the world.
Although I don't think any of my grandparents went on a death march, I am grateful to Thea Halo for documenting her mother's amazing story, and giving me an insight into that time. I particularly liked the way the book was structured, and the ratio of historic detail to "story". It's an excellent (though often heartbreaking) read. There was one part in particular where I had to stop and grab a handful of tissue - I was crying that much. I'm also grateful that the story of the genocide of "my" people, the Pontic Greeks, is being told, despite fervent denial - to this day - by the Turkish government.

If you're interested in your Greek Family Tree, I can thoroughly recommend Gregory Kontos, a Greek genealogist, who has helped me in my search. For those of us born outside of Greece, it's great to have the assistance of a native speaker (and reader) who is also fluent in English. Gregory is passionate about what he does, he is professional, reliable and a joy to work with. 

Tomorrow I will post another picture of my paternal grandparents.

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