After finding a note left by his grandfather, Aram Mrjoian considers how writing about the Armenian diaspora could help prevent history from being forgotten.
Aram Mrjoian | Longreads | November 2018 | 11 minutes (2624 words)
On the periphery of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the basement of my parents’ house, resting on a pool table among spare tools, mildew-stained textbooks, and model trains, I recently found an overstuffed manila envelope fraying at the edges. Official letterhead from Wayne State University is stamped in the upper left corner. If not for the message written at the center, where an address would usually be scribbled out, it would be unassuming. Instead, penciled in neat capital letters, a message to my father reads:
The note’s lack of punctuation seems almost intentional, as if the author wanted the statement to remain open-ended. I was born 15 months after the date, late June of the following year. The well-informed historian might use context clues to gather what the folder holds. For me, as the author of this essay, my name, along with Wayne State University’s rough location, provide esoteric hints as to the envelope’s contents, but for the average reader there’s not enough to go on to come to a confident conclusion.
Q: So what’s in the folder?
A: Decades worth of newspaper clippings about the Armenian genocide.
Old school Armenians can be, to put it lightly, unwavering in their grudges. My grandfather, having been born in the United States to parents who fled Armenia as the Ottoman Empire attempted to murder their families, remained passionate in his hatred of Turkey until he passed away from complications of a heart attack in 1997, when I was 8 years old. I don’t know what year he began collecting newspaper clippings prior to 1988. I didn’t browse the articles in detail, because they’re not for me. At least, not yet.