Not Even My Name: A True Story - Thea Halo NO SPOILERS!!!

This book gets 5 stars. I don't care if at points the text seemed a little simplistic. I don't care at all. I don't give a hoot. The message is beautiful. What it teaches is beautiful, and I LOVE Sano the mother of the author. It is her that has done the teaching. This book is not just a book about Turkish ethnic cleansing. Yes, you get that too, but the prime message is how one should live a life. If you do not read this bok, you will never know about Sano. She is one of those individuals that don't make history books but have so much to impart to others. I give this book 5 stars b/c it introduced me to Sano. Pure and simple, that is why. She is has such wisdom, such generosity and such unconditional love.

I have complained about some of the lines. Other lines I adore:

(page 324): "Life is our reward. The rest is up to us."

(page 311:): "The only other hotel in Aybasti we were told, was even more primitive than the one we were in, but we were grateful there was a hotel, and we had slept as well as we would have in a luxury suite. As my mother said, 'When your eyes are closed all rooms are the same.'"

(page 268): "'How dare this woman tell my eight-year-old son he's too stupid to be a monitor? There is no such thing as a stupid child. They're only stupid teachers who don't know how to teach. Children are never stupid,' I said. 'And my son is not stupid. How dare you destroy his confidence?' And with that I broke down and cried......"

(page 262): But because of the Depression, none of these jobs lasted.He even worked driving a trolley car for a while, but the hours were so long and the job so monotonous, that he fell asleep at the wheel and almost ran someone over, so he quit."

I like the straightforward tone.

This book is presented as if the mother is sitting in front of you telling you her story. YES, the book is often telling rather than showing - but I don't care. It works. You learn not only about the ethnic cleansing of Assyrians, Armenians and Pontic Greeks, but also about their traditions and culture. You learn about Sano's life. Her life was hard, not ONLY due to ethnic cleansing! But boy did she come out singing! :0)

Oh, one more thing, other reviewers say they aren't interested in Sano's life in the US. You need this. You need to see her whole life. This is how you SEE she surmounted her difficulties.

No, there is one MORE things. This author learned more about her identity and her heritage than the author of Passage To Ararat. Or maybe it is just that women and men see and express things a bit differently. Come on, that is true!

Through page 233: The prose is very uneven. Very different in different sections. This is rather jostling, sometimes quite disturbing. Some parts are so terribly simplistic. Perhaps this is done on purpose to remind us that Sano is only 10. Well, now whe is 15. Here is another example from page 233:

"Our first stop was Istanbul, but we only saw it from the port until the cargo was loaded. Then we were on our way again. On board I saw two young women crocheting little baskets with colored thread. I watched them from a short distance too shy to ask them how it was done."

""I bet I could do that, I thought. It's the thing that has carried me through life, this feeling that I could do what I set out to do. I can tell just by looking at something if I could master it or not, and once that I determine that I can, there is no stopping me. A little gift from God perhaps, this resolve of my will."

You know this is a child relating the narrative. Now if this is a child's book, will they be able to read the complicated dense history chapters? There is alot of educative material included- how houses are built, how bread is baked, holiday traditions, etc. You do learn much about life in Kurdish, Armenian and Pontic Greek communities.

Through page 180: Here follows a quote from pages 179-180:

"The evening sun streamed through the window and caught hold of the handle of the tub and turned it orange, then spilled down onto the clay floor at my feet. The light of the fire danced on the wall. Was it so long ago that I stood naked on a stool by the fire in front of my mother as she lathered a soft cloth and rubbed my body until I foamed in every crevice?"

and from page 169:

"I tried to cry, but I couldn't. Even when he wrapped his arms around me and I felt him sobbing, I still did not cry. I could only stand like a tiny post for him to cry on."

The person speaking in both quotes is a ten year old child. There is no saying who is stronger, a child or an adult. I must point out that the text is very different in the historical chapters. It is dense, filled with dates and names and treaties.

Through page 177: The book is riveting. The different narrative tones make sense now. Please see message two below, where I explain! Emotionally, this is a very tough read. Sano's experiences of the death march rip you apart and not just b/c of reasons for the death march by the leaders of Turkey, but b/c of the behavior one individual directs towards another. This has nothing to do with politics. This is how low a human being can be, how badly they can behave. I will simply say that one woman even ripped the name from the author's mother. Originally she was named Themia. She was renamed Sano by a Kudish woman. Who she was as an idividual was totally negated. Everything was taken from her - everything! The names were confusing me, now I understand. You see childish innoncence washed away.

Through page 68: This book is a memoir about the ethnic cleansing that took place in Turkey after the First World War. I have read and reviewed [b:Passage to Ararat|264994|Passage to Ararat|Michael J. Arlen||256901], [b:A Summer Without Dawn: An Armenian Epic|8122640|A Summer Without Dawn|Agop J. Hacikyan||12918133], [b:The Road From Home: A True Story of Courage, Survival and Hope|158657|The Road from Home A True Story of Courage, Survival, and Hope|David Kherdian||153133] and [b:Skylark Farm|1354685|Skylark Farm|Antonia Arslan||235017]. All of these concerned the Armenian Genocide. Each had a different angle. None of them have been perfect but having read all of them I now have a better understanding of what happened. I still need to read [b:Armenian Golgotha|5022464|Armenian Golgotha|Grigoris Balakian||5089046]. I have a hunch this one will be the best...... I wish I had started with it, but I shouldn't say until I have read it. I ordered it today! However it is important to note that in Turkey, particularly after WW1, the ethnic cleansing that occurred not only attempted to rid the country of Armenians but also Pontic Greeks and Assyrians. Greek Nationals were also moved out of Turkey. At this time, 1.5 million Armenians, 750 thousand Assyrians and 353 thousand Pontic Greeks were slaughtered. This book, [b:Not Even My Name: A True Story|255049|Not Even My Name A True Story|Thea Halo||247176], is about the author's mother, a Pontic Greek, who survived. This gives yet another perspective to what I have read previously. The author's mother was 10 when she lived through these horrors. The author returns to the Pontic Mountains with her mother to find again the small village where her mother grew up. Her mother had never really talked about her life experiences, but finally all unfolds when she returns to the village, at the age of 79 accompanied by her daughter. Her story is this book.

It is very clear that the mother does not live with hate. How is that possible? The mother has a simple answer. Where she lived, in the three Greek villages in the Pontic Mountains of Turkey bordering the Black Sea, the Turks, living in the Turkish villages, were their friends! This is why she did not hate "the Turks". She blames the killings on Mustafa Kemal, Attatürk. There is where the blame belongs, him and of course those who helped him. The author has such a hard time reconciling the barbarism of the past with the kindness of the Turkish people they meet when the go back to the village in 1989. Sano, who survived, is a cheerful woman. When whe immigrated to the US and raised her family of 10 children, she had her memories but she kept them to herself. Locked up in side, hidden. She was happy. The author has such wonderful memories of her mother, busy, busy, busy, who wouldn't be with 10 kids, but she is so happy, and she always sings! This happiness shines through all the pages I have read. I very much appreciate this "way of looking at life", not letting yourself be dragged down in the mud. Reading a book about such horrible events is almost impossible if the book is written in a negative manner.

One cannot but notice the wonderful relationship between the author, Thea, and her mother, Sano. I will be very honest here. It actually makes me feel guilty. They NEVER argue. They look at each other and they understand. I feel a bit like a terrible person when I read about how good and considerate they are to each other..... It makes me feel quite irritated with myself. It is just that when I don't agree about something I never manage to keep my mouth shut...... But is it good to not open your mouth and pretend you agree? That builds a relationship on false grounds. So far they just always seem to agree, and this sort of makes me jealous. There, I said what I am thinking.

History of the Pontic Greeks is succinctly summarized. I appreciate this tremendously. The history goes back to the ancient times, Homer's epic poems of the Bronze Age. Why? Well, to explain how and when the Pontic Greeks settled in Turkey(Asia Minor / Ionia). Not only do we learn of the savage killings under Attatürk's rule, but also about the huge efforts he made to nationalize and modernize Turkey. Attatürk literally means "father of the Turks". He renamed Constantinople to Istanbul. To improve literacy, important education reforms were instigated . Muslim women were banned from wearing the black veils that had covered their faces. Monogamous marriages replaced the earlier acceptance of multiple wives. Roman letters replaced Arabic script. He tried to bring Turkey up to the standards of Western life. I like that the good and the bad are stated.

This could perhaps be a YA book. When the book shifts to the mother's story, her experiences as a child, that is when you feel that it is aimed toward a younger group of readers. There is a map and information concerning how names are pronounced. I find that I am recognizing cultural similarities with the Greek traditions depicted in [b:Eleni|224285|Eleni|Nicholas Gage||217216]. Eleni is a wonderful book that I will never forget. Eleni's author, Nicholas Gage, and Peter Balakian, the translator of Armenian Golgotha mentioned above, have both praised this book. I still have many pages left, so that is all for now.