Daughter of War

ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2009 nominee On the 2009 USBBY list of Outstanding International Books White Pine nominee, 2009 On Resource Link’s “Best of 2008” List Teenagers Kevork and his betrothed Marta are the lucky ones. They have managed so far to survive the Armenian genocide in Turkey, and both are disguised as Muslims. But Marta is still in Turkey, pregnant with another man’s child. And Kevork is living as an Arab in Syria.Kevork yearns to get back into Turkey and search for Marta, but with the war raging and the genocide still in progress, the journey will be impossibly dangerous. Meanwhile, Marta worries that even if Kevork has survived and they are reunited, will he be able to accept what she has become? And what has happened to her sister, Mariam, who was sold as a slave to the highest bidder?Daughter of War is a gripping story of enduring love and loyalty set against the horrors of Turkey during World War I.

One thought on “Daughter of War

  1. Pritchard & Aziz says:

    Seemi’s Take:
    Genocide of a people is an issue specifically when a minority within a stronger and larger nation is highlighted. This situation is rendered worse when religion comes into play. This has been a concern in the accounts of numerous nations throughout history and is currently observed as well.
    Within this story, Kevork hides in plain sight by presenting himself as a Muslim [he is accepted and never questioned by the Muslims around him]. Marta bears the child of her abuser, who already has two wives. One of the wives cannot have children and it is for that reason alone that the said wife permits the relationship between her husbands and Marta. Later, when Marta is close to childbirth the wife cannot accept her as the mother or the unborn child. She then proceeds to take her back to the orphanage where she was before. Thus, another woman discards Marta like a used object. Mariam, Marta’s sister converts to Islam and marries?/lives with her abductor to survive. The story is as much that of Kevork as it is Marta’s so why should it be titled “Daughter of War,” or is it referring to the female child Marta bears? That was not really clear for me.
    Within this story, the vilification of Muslim/Turks was strong, reinforcing the present day beliefs. The Armenians were given voice and the Turks were again mostly silenced in the passage of the fictional events. Rustem, and the Turk doctor’s family provided the necessary counter-narrative for helpful Turks in this struggle. West as well as the missionary were represented as “the saviors.” However, this was a more readable account of the same historical event as the previous book Home is Beyond the Mountains by Celia Barker Lottridge. The character development of characters was stronger and deeper than the previous book. These two books/narratives would be great for paired reading.
    Again the Western influence in saving the Armenians was highlighted within the story. The ongoing support of the poor Armenians and Assyrians by the U.S. and Germany, etc., was perpetual and vital for their survival. The most significant issue that came across for me was the comparative with the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims that took place in more recent years that has had almost no coverage in children’s literature except a very weak description in The Day of the Pelican by the renowned Katharine Paterson. Paterson focused on an Albanian Kosovar family rather than a Bosnian family. It was the Bosnians who were more impacted by the oppression of the Serbians. There the Western interference/influence as saviors did not happen till very late in the conflict to stop the atrocities against Muslims.
    Even though the both the protagonists in this book are teenagers, the atrocities as well as childbirth scenes were graphically represented which made me question if the book would be a viable choice for high school students let alone upper elementary.
    Gail’s Take:
    This multiple award winning book, including the 2009 USBBY list of Outstanding International Books, opens with a historical note (finally, a book has this at the beginning) and sets the stage for the reader. It is a powerful read where Skrypuch does not hold back on the description of life for internally displaced persons during the Armenian genocide during the 1900’s. Like our previously reviewed title, Home Is Beyond the Mountains by Celia Barker Lottridge, this story focuses on the plight of Armenian orphans; in this case, they are forced from an orphanage run by the Germans in Marash, Turkey into the desert where they died, were sold into slavery, escaped to another location, or were rescued and adopted. Skrypuch tells the story through their and others’ voices in alternating chapters.
    Marta escapes from the soldiers during the death march into the desert and is taken into a family by the second wife. She is forced to become the third wife and from the beginning of the novel, we know she is 15 years old and pregnant. Kevork is Marta’s betrothed from before the march. He has disguised himself as Arab and is trying to find a way to get back to the orphanage where he and Marta promised to reunite. As they remember each other, the reader begins to understand what led each to their current circumstance and how desperate they are to be together again.
    For Marta, returning to the orphanage is straight forward. Because she is pregnant, she might have a son. If she has a son, she will displace the much older first wife. The first wife does not want this to happen, so she takes Marta back to the orphanage, telling her, “You realize that I could have just wrung your neck and been done with it? …. I’m taking you back to the Germans… to that orphanage you always talk about.” For Marta, this is the best possible scenario. She will no longer have to face the nightly rapes by “her husband” or the jealousy and mistreatment by the first wife. But Kevork’s journey is much different.
    Kevork has a stall in the Aleppo Market where he works as a shoemaker. Through a series of chance encounters, he meets and American and a Turkish soldier, both of whom change the course of his life. The American is part of a group trying to help Armenians in hiding and through their meeting, Kevork finds himself helping them. The Turkish soldier hunts down and kills key players in this group, thus Kevork finds himself taking on a dangerous journey to smuggle photos of the Armenian genocide out of the country. Through these missions, Kevork sees far beyond his own suffering and the reader sees what he views and understands the unspeakable inhumanity man inflicts upon man.
    As I read this novel, I found myself wondering how anyone could do these things to anyone—much less children. I’ve never understood how genocide can even exist in the modern world. Of course, over the years, I’ve read a number of books that dealt with genocide: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1993), I never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 by Hana Volavkova (1994), The Road from Home: A True Story of Courage, Survival, and Hope by David Kherdian (1995), Genocide by Jane Springer (2007), to name a few; until this month’s My Take/Your Take, those readings were separated by time. Perhaps it is reading three novels and a picture book back-to-back about genocide that has me reeling from the lack of pity or compassion from the perpetrators. Yes, there are those who rail against their government practices and do what they can, but where is the rest of the world? We teach about the horrors of the Holocaust, but what about the Armenian genocide? Stalin’s genocide against Ukrainians? The Bosnian Genocide? The genocide in Rwanda? Cambodia? Darfur? The list goes on and on and on….
    Recently, I was in a Global Health course and one of my classmates asked how we address family and friends who question our intent to do service in lower and middle income countries (developing nations)? My response to her was, “I tell my family and friends, why not me? If I’m not willing to go, why should I expect others?” And this takes me to Eve Buntings story, Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust; she says in her notes, “Standing up for what you know is right is not always easy. Especially if the one you face is bigger and stronger than you. It is easier to look the other way. But, if you do, terrible things can happen.” So I have to ask, is this the legacy we want to leave to our children—a world where we look the other way when terrible things happen?

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