Interested in seeing the humanity in those with whom we are at odds, Meline Toumani, author of "There Was and There Was Not," will give the Luther College Opening Convocation address Thursday, Aug. 31.
Convocation begins at 9:40 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall on the Luther campus and is open to the public with no charge for admission.
Toumani will address "The Identities We Inherit, the Identities We Create." Specifically, she will focus on humanity and recognizing humanity in others. She'll discuss how to process information given as children, maintain a sense of identity and move into adulthood, and how to live with unanswerable questions and process atrocities as both the victim and the participant.
Her first book, "There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond," was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The nonfiction work explores the questions surrounding what happened in Armenia in 1915 and searches for the truth behind the drive for genocide recognition and denial.
Toumani uses her own heritage as an ethnic Armenian raised in the United States to question what she perceives as a hatred for the Turks by her Armenian-American community. In an effort to learn more, she traveled to Turkey. For four years, Toumani interviewed Turkish scholars, visited Armenian villages and developed friendships with both Turks and Kurds. The result is a book that humanizes Turks but also encourages them to acknowledge the genocide. At the same time, she raises questions for Armenians about the ultimate value of genocide recognition in relation to other political and economic priorities.
A Boston Globe book review described Toumani's efforts as a "clear-eyed, nuanced memoir…As Toumani bravely exposes the fissures in her thinking about identity, she is also cautiously optimistic that Turks are moving toward recognizing what happened in 1915."
The memoir was chosen as the all-college 2017 summer reading.
"There Was and There Was Not," published in 2014, is Toumani's first book. She has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, in addition to Harper's, The Nation, The Boston Globe, Newsday, The National and other cultural pages. As a foreign reporter, she's worked in Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Russia. She's held staff editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, KQED Public Media and GreatSchools.
Toumani graduated from the University of California Berkeley with high honors in English and public policy. She went on to earn a master's degree in journalism from the Cultural Reporting and Criticism Program at New York University. From 2002 to 2003, she was the coordinator of the Russian American Journalism Institute in Rostov-On-Don, Russia. She was a journalism fellow in residence at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna in 2007.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,000, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the bachelor of arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther, visit the college's website: