Meline Toumani: A Defensive Rebel With a Murky and Meandering Cause
PAGE 4, THE CALIFORNIA COURIER, DECEMBER 4, 2014
By Peter Musurlian
Now that I have read Meline Toumani’s superficial, quasicoming-
of-age, touchy-feely, self-indulgent mess of a book,
“There Was and Their Was Not,” I am even more stunned at her abject
dismissal of attempts by the worldwide Armenian community to continue
to secure genocide recognition by governmental bodies, genocide
scholars, and increasingly Turks.
The genocide was kind of a big deal. And, it continues to be
aggressively and unconscionably denied to this day by those who
inherited that criminal history.
Toumani says she has had enough of the “all-consuming campaign.” She
is ready to move on and screw you if that is all you seem to care
Of course, that is not all Armenians care about. It is at the top of
the list, but has Toumani not seen the incredible diversity of
cultural and social and political interests and expressions in the
Armenian- American community? Her view
of the Armenian community is myopic.
Before reading the book, I was very interested in hearing her speak at
Glendale’s Abril Bookstore in late November 2014.
Kudos to Abril for expanding its great tradition of hosting authors
This particular author is well educated and did something quite
impressive: she lived in Turkey for a couple of years and talked
extensively with Turks and Kurds in an attempt at some solid
journalism and reportage.
The result, though, is a brutal and insensitive rejection of what
Armenians experienced 100 years ago, and what the children and
grandchildren of those victims have fought for: something resembling
Those of us alive today, under the age of 55, are not genocide
victims, no matter what psychobabble you want to latch onto. Those
alive and dead, from the late 1800s to 1923, are the victims.
And Toumani is certainly not a victim. She has had the privilege of a
comfortable upbringing with two parents, and an enviable American
Why does she whine about her life seemingly surrounded by people who
are obsessed with the genocide and how those people “hate Turks” and
“demonize Turks.” That is much of the thesis of her book. It is a poor
premise and a false foundation upon which she builds a fractured
infrastructure of her “personal journey.”
At Abril bookstore, Toumani’s behavior was pathetic. She articulately
and engagingly read the introduction to her book, which, on the face
of it, was well written. Ultimately, I discovered that it was not
well-reported or wellthought- out. Her logic and lucidness would be
right at home in a Louisiana swamp.
When she was ever-so-softly challenged about her premise or what
exactly she could offer as far as solutions — instead of just
unsupportable criticisms — she became defensive and rude, a quality
of an overly-sensitive person who cannot explain away intellectual
sloppiness and/or dishonesty.
When queried by Asbarez columnist Garen Yegparian, who was
uncharacteristically mild mannered in his questioning, she said
immediately, in full snark mode, that she was familiar with his work
and knows they agree on very little. That is a pretty bold,
in-your-face comment by someone claiming not be be tearing down the
Armenian American community.
She actually snapped at Dr. Levon Marashlian, as he politely asked a
question, looking for the most very basic clarification. Dr.
Marashlian has a UCLA Ph.D., in Armenian Studies, has taught at
Glendale College for more than three decades, and is a Vietnam combat
veteran. He deserves respect.
Her childish outburst at him is a telling personality trait and an
indication she is mentally out-of-her- league or academically suspect
or outright dishonest or doing the bidding for someone other than
herself or all of the above.
I do not know, since I am neither a psychiatrist nor an FBI profiler.
She had read in the intro, “…and most importantly, how to remember a
genocide without perpetuating the kind of hatred that gave rise to it
in the first place.”
Dr. Marashlian wanted to know what that meant. What hatred?
The supposed hatred Armenians have toward Turks? Or, the hatred
Armenians create in today’s Turks by fighting for genocide
recognition? Whatever she meant, he gently suggested, it was
potentially wrong and alarming.
She interrupted him and said, “I’m in charge here.” I would have
actually like such bravado, if she then answered Dr. Marashlian’s
question forcefully and convincingly, but she did not. Instead she
offered-up some insecure ramblings
and ambiguity, something like “my book is nuanced.”
Oh really? If only Dr. Marashlian could someday grasp your “nuanced”
I welcome a contrary examination of the Armenian community.
Everyone and every organization with an opinion in the Armenian
Community is not always correct.
I welcome a good debate where people defend their positions.
People should be called-out to defend their opinions.
I love a good fight between sharp minds.
So, she thinks there is an epidemic of hatred toward Turks here in
America. Really? Prove it, otherwise she is just perpetuating the
stereotype of an ignorant, immature, and angry 16-year-old Armenian
boy. That is not the demographic of the Armenian community.
Not too insightful. It is a crass caricature.
She suggests that Turks and Armenians are “equally fanatical.”
She asks whether the objective of genocide recognition by Armenians is
worth its emotional and intellectual price. Good question, if you work
for the Turkish government.
She wonders why Turkey just can’t admit it? Well, we have known the
answer to that question for a very long time. Why is she asking that
question as if she has some insight to offer?
The Turks do not want to pay for the crime with reparations and
restitution, while also admitting their forefathers are murderers and
thieves! That’s why. Toumani can now stop pondering an
already-answered question. She might serve the community well,
fighting for justice. And, if the fight for genocide recognition has
grown tiresome for her, she can
perhaps write a book about the health benefits of kale.
Toumani focused on herself and her psychological musings. I am not
interested in her feelings and her soul-searching, when they lead to
her rejection of a large majority of good-hearted and well-intentioned
If she wants to find herself or the meaning of life, she can do it in
a graduate-school-seminar bull session or in group therapy. To attack
the Armenian community in its backyard — and do it so poorly– is a
She is a victim of nothing, except her own First-World self-absorption.
Emmy-award winner Peter Musurlian, has been nominated for seven Los
Angeles Area (News) Emmys and is currently completing two
documentaries: “Historic Armenia” and “The 100-Year-Old Survivor,”
about the political efforts of a now-deceased survivor, and many
Armenian-American activists, seeking genocide recognition.