Beyond the Two Rivers, by Aida Kouyoumjian
Beyond the Two Rivers: The Continuing Story of Mannig the Heroine of Between the Two Rivers Following the Armenian Genocide (246 pages), is the sequel to Between the Two Rivers: A Story of the Armenian Genocide, the account of the real-life saga of Ms. 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.
“A memoir so memorable it will haunt you forever. This is one book that will enlighten readers about a country so many know so little about.”
—Fran Lewis, Just Reviews
Critics had high praise for Between the Two Rivers:
“From the first page of Between the Two Rivers, your attention will be captured,” writes Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views. “Readers won’t be able to put the book down. You will hiss at the villains and cheer for the underdogs.”
In ForeWord Reviews, Elissa Mugianis writes, “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.”
“An absorbing account that confirms the adage, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ ” says Mary Terzian, author of The Immigrants’ Daughter.
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.
Between the Two Rivers was a true Cinderella of Mesopotamia story. Young Mannig rose from starving Armenian orphan to the teenage bride of a wealthy philanthropist. Beyond the Two Rivers begins in Baghdad amid the political turmoil of 1958 and flashes back to where the first book left off in 1922, when Mannig travels to the desert castle of her in-laws. As a young mother, Mannig moves from one isolated farming village outpost to another while her engineer husband makes the desert bloom. Mannig, Mardiros, and their three children eventually settle in Baghdad, where the tumult of World War II has soured relations between the various tribes who have shared these lands peacefully for centuries.
Whether hobnobbing with royalty or escaping from angry Bedouin, Mannig retains her resilience and joie de vivre. This is an Iraq that no longer exists, except in our memories and imaginations.
Says the author, “Ever since Between the Two Rivers was published, I’ve been asked about a sequel. Did the Cinderella of Mesopotamia get to enjoy a Happily Ever After? Well, the answer is complicated, as you will see. She certainly had a wonderful husband, who also became a loving father to his children. But those were turbulent years, and what began as a luxurious idyll in the castle of her husband’s family soon turned into an itinerant existence far from her friends, her in-laws and her sister. During my childhood, my father’s engineering work took us from one remote outpost to the next, and eventually we had to flee for our lives. Mannig’s life was full of adventure, and it was certainly happier than most. It had its moments of fear and tragedy, but she was tough; anyone who survived what she did as a child had to be. I think many will find it fascinating to relive those years with her, in an Iraq that struggled to find its place in the twentieth century, fell into the hands of a dictator, and now continues to reel as violence breaks out in surrounding countries. What’s going on in Syria these days is so reminiscent of what has been happening in the Middle East since the beginning of human history—in Babylon, which is only a few miles from where I was born.”
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 on Mercer Island. Click here to find Aida online.
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