“From the first page of Between the Two Rivers, your attention will be captured. Readers won’t be able to put the book down. You will hiss at the villains and cheer for the underdogs.” Read more …
— Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views
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“With this writing, Kouyoumjian joins authors Thea Halo and Peter Balakian, whose finely penned accounts of family members’ survival of the Ottoman atrocities are essential reads for the understanding of these genocides.” Read more …
—Elissa Mugianis, ForeWord Digital Reviews
**Buy the Kindle Version**
Between the Two Rivers (302 pp, $18.95, ISBN: 978-1-60381-111-8, 2nd Edition) is the account of the real-life saga of Aida Kouyoumjian’s mother Mannig, who as a young girl was one of a small minority of Armenians who survived the massacre and deportation from the Ottoman Empire during and after World War I. Historians estimate that 1.5 to 2 million Armenians perished.
Watch the Book Trailer, created by Beth Sanders, of Athena Video Arts:
“Aida Kouyoumjian’s rich memories of her mother will be a source of great fascination to anyone interested in the Armenian Genocide.”
—Dawn MacKeen, Award-Winning Freelance Journalist
“The book reads like a chapter from One Thousand and One nights. An absorbing account that confirms the adage, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ … The author’s visual descriptions touch the senses.”
—Mary Terzian, Author of The Immigrants’ Daughter
“Anyone who has traveled in the Middle East will recognize the authenticity of Aida Kouyoumjian’s voice. This story is told with the deep cultural understanding of one born, raised and educated within sight of the minarets of Baghdad. Aida’s writing launches the reader into the exotic land of pre-Saddam’s Iraq, overflowing with vibrant colors, sights, sounds—and dangers.”
—Joyce O’Keefe, Writer and former Foreign Service Officer
“Mannig’s spirit, resourcefulness and courage captivate the reader.”
—Genie Dickerson, Journalist, Washington, D.C.
“It is the stuff of oral history,” Aida says. “My work is ‘creative nonfiction.’ Every scene in the book is a story she told us. Every single one has a line or paragraph that I remember word for word. At the beginning, she sing-songed the loss of her family members into lullabies at bedtime. As we grew up, she incorporated the details that haunted her throughout her life. I heard the stories so many times in so many different ways. All that remained was to make it flow—the smells, the sights, how it came about.”
The first edition of Between the Two Rivers won first place (Washington State) in the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) At-Large Communications Contest in the nonfiction: history category.
Orphaned by the Armenian Genocide in 1915, Mannig and her sister Adrine struggle to stay alive in what is now eastern Iraq. Mannig lives on the streets and trades camel dung for bread; her sister works as a servant for an Arab family. With the help of Barone Madiros, a wealthy philanthropist, Mannig and Adrine eventually find their way to an orphanage for surviving Armenian children. In this refuge, after years of hardship, the two sisters find compassion, joy, safety … and love. Told by Mannig’s daughter, Between the Two Rivers is a candid and moving account of a mother’s triumph over adversity. This revised second edition includes a map and photographs.
Aida Kouyoumjian was born in Felloujah and raised and educated in Baghdad, Iraq. In 1952 she came to Seattle to attend the University of Washington on a Fulbright Scholarship. Aida married an American and eventually settled in Mercer Island. You can find Aida online by visiting her blog.
After her father died in 1965, Aida was finally able to bring her mother Mannig to this country. At the age of 69 Mannig was hired by the UW to tutor graduate students in Turkish, Armenian, and Arabic. She retired after seven years, dying at the age of 79. Just before her death in 1985, Mannig was one of 90 survivors who attended the 70th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Washington, D.C.
The second edition of Between the Two Rivers is available in Kindle ($6.95) and print editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon Japan. Other electronic versions can be purchased on Smashwords ($6.95). Bookstores can order wholesale through Ingram or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aida Kouyoumjian is available to speak at civic and community organizations’ meetings.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Seeing a mob of milling children in the courtyard, Dikran gave a surprised look and then stepped forward with Mannig in tow. He shoved to the left and scooted to the right, jostling his muscular and tall physique above the figures of the emaciated orphans. The sun grew high, and rancid moisture mingled with the fusty smells of poverty.
Two effendis sat at a small table in front of the carved, tall mahogany entrance to the sanctuary, each jotting names in a ledger.
An orange-and-black-spotted butterfly fluttered and perched on the shoulder of the hatless one. He slanted a tender look at its quivering wings, stroking its tiny head. His honey-colored eyes below a wide forehead attracted Mannig. He looked like a favorite person in her life. But who?
“The butterfly is good luck,” she heard him whisper, barely moving his lips, lest he startle it. Nevertheless, it spread its wings and flew out of sight into the sun. “She’ll bring good luck to someone else,” he said, his thoughts seemingly in flight, too. He dipped his pen into the ink well and narrowed his gaze at the ledger. “Who’s next?”
“Good morning, Barone,” Dikran said.
Surprised, he asked, “Shouldn’t you be searching for lost orphans in Mosul?”
The second effendi scanned the horde of children and slanted his chin to the right. “You think we need more?”
“Every one of them, lest they perish.”
“Here’s an orphan from my khan,” Dikran said, positioning Mannig in front of him.
The effendis scrutinized her from head to toe. Each puckered a curious lip. The man with the receding chin spoke first. “Your khan must be a palace and she the princess.”
“Healthy, groomed, and well-fed!” asserted the Barone, in a voice matching the gentleness of his honey-colored eyes.
Dikran stuttered, “She has no family. Nobody. Nothing.”
“Look at them flocked in the courtyard,” chided the first effendi, and thumbing rapidly through the ledger, he slammed its black leather jacket closed. “Our mission is to save the abandoned, the strayed—before evil grips them. Can’t you see how well off this girl is under your care? She is clothed, fed, and certainly safe from being converted to Islam. You make us Armenians very proud. We need more fellows like you.” The effendi then motioned to Dikran to move aside and, shaking his head, added, “She does not qualify under our mission guidelines.”
He then pointed to the next girl. “What’s your name, child?” He prepared to enter it in the ledger.
They want her—not me!
Mannig’s heart sank into a suffocating pit. She wanted to rebel, yell, and hit; to beg, tug, and plead her case, but she froze, except for glaring at the next girl’s raggedy garb, tangled hair, and stink-veiled face.
Dikran pulled Mannig aside. “Things work out for the best,” he said, shooing her off to the khan. “I will bring food for you when I finish my work.”
Mannig wept all the way back to the khan. Her eyes still shone with tears when Dikran returned at dusk. “The Barone noticed your disappointment and gave these raisins to comfort your soul.” He stuffed a handful into a pocket bread and broke it in half. Before he bit into his share, he said, “I am sad for you, just as much.”
Barone! That meant Mr. in Armenian—easy to remember. Was he the one with honey-colored eyes? He looked the kinder of the two. She bit into her sandwich, but each swallow induced more tears. They rolled down her cheeks. Will I ever go to school?