We Are All Armenian
Edited by Aram Mrjoian
University of Texas Press, 2023
When I was first asked to read and review Aram Mrjoian’s We Are All Armenian: Voices from the Diaspora, I admit I was a little hesitant. I love to read, but in selecting a book, I look for something quite particular–an escape. I want to leave my life behind and travel to some unknown world. I want to check the fabricated map at the beginning of the book to remind me where I’ve been. I want to hear words spoken that haven’t been said before and feel like I, too, have something to say. I want to imagine characters with eyes a shade so blue they don’t exist here in our natural world. I want to live inside my mind even if just for a chapter or two. So when I was encouraged to read a book about the diasporan experience, I thought to myself I am the diasporan experience. I feared there was nowhere for me to go, nothing for me to learn. How incredibly different could other Armenians’ experiences be from my own? How beautifully naïve of me.
Here’s what I discovered:
- Halva makes for the most perfect subject of a descriptive writing piece. From the crumbly texture to the intensity of the sesame flavor, how expressive this sweet can be.
- Perhaps there are ways we, Armenians, Turks and others are connected that we’ve yet to uncover. That God has chosen to withhold, for we’re not quite yet ready to understand how and why and what could possibly be next.
- Enemy and ally are two sides of the same coin, and much too often we find ourselves in need of a new toss. As an Armenian surrounded by other Armenians, on which side will I reside?
- Our struggle need not isolate us.
- Language is made to connect. Let us not sever our own from conversation for difference of tongue.
- Give grace to those who try to speak your name as your ancestors intended, and be patient with those who don’t see why they must.
- The reality of Armenia’s beauty may never be depicted entirely by writing. The stories just never do it justice.
- Tolerance of individuals isn’t enough. Until the leaders of our organizations acknowledge, accept and embrace our queer ungerner, we’ve failed them and each other.
- The roots of our existence touch down so deep that they’ll never be plowed. Feed them water and sunlight and watch them grow stronger still or wait until the season is right for you. Either way, they’ll remain.
- Heaven looks different for everyone but one thing’s for certain–our grandparents are there waiting for us.
- The pain of generational genocide feels much like carrying a bucket of water with a hole at the bottom. Sure, you’ll never fill your cup, but the water that spills out along the way feeds the seeds of tomorrow.
- The richness of our culture deserves to be savored slowly.
- There is still so much of our story left to be written. Might I suggest The Armenian Weekly?
- The blood in our veins is shared, and though our hearts may not beat exactly in time, we are all Armenian.