I've got an amazing book to giveaway today......The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey
by Dawn Anahid MacKeen
From the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
"An epic tale of one man’s courage in the face of genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to tell his story
In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. He is separated from his family as they are swept up in the government’s mass deportation of Armenians into internment camps. Gradually realizing the unthinkable—that they are all being driven to their deaths—he fights, through starvation and thirst, not to lose hope. Just before killing squads slaughter his caravan during a forced desert march, Stepan manages to escape, making a perilous six-day trek to the Euphrates River carrying nothing more than two cups of water and one gold coin. In his desperate bid for survival, Stepan dons disguises, outmaneuvers gendarmes, and, when he least expects it, encounters the miraculous kindness of strangers.
The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals. Reading this rare firsthand account, his granddaughter Dawn MacKeen finds herself first drawn into the colorful bazaars before the war and then into the horrors Stepan later endured. Inspired to retrace his steps, she sets out alone to Turkey and Syria, shadowing her resourceful, resilient grandfather across a landscape still rife with tension. With his journals guiding her, she grows ever closer to the man she barely knew as a child. Their shared story is a testament to family, to home, and to the power of the human spirit to transcend the barriers of religion, ethnicity, and even time itself." Read an excerpt of The Hundred Year Walk.
Q and A with Dawn Anahid MacKeen:
Why did you feel compelled to write this book?
"Ever since I can remember, my mother has been telling me about what happened to her father. Still, the story was relayed in fragments, and I couldn’t grasp how extraordinary it was until I could finally read it for myself as an adult. (This was thanks to a relative who translated his account, which was published in the sixties by a small press, from Armenian into English.) After reading it, I couldn’t believe that he survived, and the ripple effect that my entire family was alive. My grandfather Stepan believed he lived in order to tell the world what happened, and shared his ordeal with my mother throughout her childhood. She then passed it onto me. This is our family’s heirloom. Other people inherit fine china. I inherited this story, along with it the responsibility of retelling it.
Would you have survived this?
"I ask myself this all the time. At each turn, what would I have done when faced with the same near-impossible odds? Would I have made the same decisions as my grandfather? Or would I have given up? My grandfather did everything to reunite with his family again, transforming himself constantly, and pushing his own physical and emotional limits. He was level-headed, and always tried to plot his next step, escaping from one of the worst killing fields of the genocide. He donned the uniform of a Turkish soldier, dressed like Lawrence of Arabia, and became part of a clan to escape the Turkish gendarmes who were trying to kill him. He learned Arabic. Later in the war, he became a translator to a German officer later, using his basic French. This was a man who only had a third grade education, but the survival skills he picked up as a child after his father died helped him to persevere. He was also a kind man, which ingratiated strangers to assist him. And, of course, there’s the luck factor; he was extremely fortunate, too, to have been able to escape so many times when others didn’t have that opportunity.
But if I am honest with myself, I know I’m not as clever or as strong as him. I have long ago decided that I wouldn’t have lived."
How did you discover more of his journals?
"I had just moved back to Los Angeles from New York and was quickly finding out how difficult it was to report on this subject. I had the journals from the small press, but they only told part of the story. Of course, this is a genocide and most people didn’t survive, and even if they did, it’s a century later. Almost everyone involved was long gone. Suddenly, I was living at home at age 35, and feeling like a complete loser. My mother and I had a huge fight about me quitting. She didn’t want me to stop. Just to be flippant and to state the impossible, I blurted out: “I cannot help you unless you raise your father from the dead, and have him tell me what happened to him.” Two days later, my mother found two of his notebooks. After that, my uncle searched his garage and unearthed two more. After finding those, I felt almost as if I had a mandate to complete this project."
"Dawn Anahid MacKeen is an award-winning investigative journalist who spent nearly a decade on her grandfather’s story. Previously she was a staff writer at Salon, Newsday, and Smart Money. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California." You can connect with Dawn on her website
and follow her on Twitter
Enter to win a copy of The Hundred Year Walk using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends January 30/16.