A-no’o-nus Dawn Essegian Lajeunesse. Hal’/lee a-me-ree-ga-tsee yem.
My name is Dawn Essegian Lajeunesse. I am Armenian American.
I am here.
It has been a while since I have posted about my Armenian book project. Happily, that is because I’ve been immersed in the edits and preparations for the publication of my fourth novel, The Eyes Have It. But thoughts and actions related to sharing a story about Armenians and their immigration to America during the genocide years under the Ottoman Turks have never been far from my mind.
My research into the early Armenian immigrants, including my grandparents, has been going slowly. As an example, I requested a copy of my grandmother’s death certificate and was told it would take 4-6 months. I know when she died, but no one, even the oldest surviving family members, knows the cause of her death at the age of fifty-five.
Since I anticipate writing this story as historical fiction rather than non-fiction, the exact cause of one character’s death isn’t essential. But it could provide some insights into her and her lifestyle.
Who, really, was Sultan?
Characters in any story must spring to life for the reader. The more I can learn about each of them, the more alive and real they will seem. What did they like to do? How did they spend their time each day? How did they interact with others, both family and non-family? How did their origin influence all of this?
How similar and different were they from other immigrants who may or may not be related? How did the immigrants from, say, Kharpoot (like my ancestors) differ from those who came from Van, or from Marash, or Adana, or Aleppo?
How did the circumstances surrounding their leaving Armenia or Turkey influence them? Their age? Before or after the worst of the massacres? Surely a woman—with or without children—who was driven on a forced march through the desert, watching the deaths of so many—including children—at the cruel hands of the Turkish soldiers, that woman, as a survivor, likely would have a different life view from one who fled the threat of massacre. One who watched family members gunned down or hung or otherwise tortured would evolve differently from someone who escaped before the worst of times.
And how did their experiences translate into how they interacted with their children, the first generation of Armenian Americans? And how did the experience of those first-generation children affect how they lived, married, and interacted with their own children?
These are the puzzle pieces I must locate and place into the bigger picture I hope to create–the tapestry woven by these Armenians and their families and friends.
Who are these people?
Bedk e meg-neem hee-ma.
Gu des-nu-veenk no-ren.
I must go now.
I’ll see you again