Ahnert, Margaret Ajemian 1958–

views updated

Ahnert, Margaret Ajemian 1958–

(Margaret Ahnert)

PERSONAL:

Born 1958, in New York, NY; daughter of Ester Minerajian Ahronian Ajemian. Education: Goddard College, B.A.; Goucher College, M.F.A.; graduate of the Barnes Foundation. Hobbies and other interests: Fishing, hunting, sailing.

ADDRESSES:

E-mail— [email protected]t.com.

CAREER:

Writer, television producer, docent, and educator. Worked as a producer of television documentaries, a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of art, and as an art educator in elementary schools.

WRITINGS:

The Knock at the Door: A Journey through the Darkness of the Armenian Genocide, Beaufort Books (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author Margaret Ajemian Ahnert has pursued a career that keeps her in regular contact with the world of art and visual creativity. A former documentary filmmaker, Ahnert has also worked as a docent in museums in New York and Philadelphia. She helps bring an awareness of art to a younger generation as part of the Art Goes to School program, which allows her to teach art appreciation in elementary schools throughout the country. Ahnert regularly hunts and fishes, is an accomplished sailor, and holds a 100-ton master captain's license, noted a biographer on the Beaufort Books Web site.

Ahnert's first book,The Knock at the Door: A Journey through the Darkness of the Armenian Genocide, is a family history wrapped in a controversial historical tragedy, the Armenian genocide of 1915, in which thousands of Christian Armenians were killed by Islamic Turks. Ahnert tells the story of her mother, Ester Minerajian Ahronian Ajemian, as she watches the placid and happy rural life she had known rapidly crumble into chaos as the Ottoman government forced the Armenians from their homes, seized their property, and slaughtered thousands. Many of those not killed by Turkish soldiers died of starvation or exhaustion during the violent forced evacuations. Using this tragic era as a backdrop, Ahnert delves into her mother's life, exploring how she survived during the genocide and how she came to America to begin a new life far from home but free from imminent danger. In telling her tale, Ahnert seeks to connect not only with her mother, but with a long-lost lifestyle that she can never know. "This book is a daughter's tribute to her mother—the story of how Ester not only escaped death, but triumphed over hatred and violence, and how she eventually began her life all over again in this country," noted reviewer Hedy Weiss, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The presence of the Armenian genocide in her work has resulted in some controversy and conflict for Ahnert. The genocide is a hotly debated topic; it is against the law to even speak about it in Turkey, and many believe that it did not occur. Public readings of Ahnert's work have been disrupted by genocide deniers. Yet the eyewitness account recorded in The Knock at the Door provides compelling evidence that the genocide did occur, and that its effects have been felt even throughout succeeding generations. Express Star contributor David Joyner noted that "stories—especially firsthand accounts—do more than entertain. They are the narrative of human experience. They reveal our past: what people did, why they did it, how those events affected others. Put to writing, they have a particular way of setting and fixing the past, ensuring that it cannot be wiped clean."

Though it is fueled by violence and tragedy, the story in The Knock at the Door is not, on the whole, a sad one. "Since Ahnert interweaves her mother's past with her present, you are never weighed down by her sorrow," commented Tamara C. Gureghian on the Armenian Weekly Web site. "You know Ester will survive. You know she will reach America. You know she will become a sweet old woman who can laugh and joke with her daughter in her final days of life. Her story is uplifting and informative." An Iararat Web log contributor called Ahnert's book "an important contribution to the Armenian Genocide witness literature." Library Journal contributor Elizabeth R. Hayford commented favorably on the book's "deft balance between personal story and historic tragedy."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Chicago Sun-Times, October 27, 2007, Hedy Weiss, "Survival Story," review of The Knock at the Door: A Journey through the Darkness of the Armenian Genocide.

Express-Star, June 20, 2007, David Joyner, "Our Stories Reveal the True Nature of History," review of The Knock at the Door.

International Herald Tribune, May 3, 2007, James Barron, "U.S. Author Heckled by People Denying Armenian Genocide."

Library Journal, May 1, 2007, Elizabeth R. Hayford, review of The Knock at the Door, p. 85.

New York Times, May 2, 2007, "Turkish Man Arrested after Group Disrupts Book Reading," p. 4; May 3, 2007, James Barron, "A Difference of Opinion on a Memoir of Her Mother," p. 3.

Publishers Weekly, March 5, 2007, review of The Knock at the Door, p. 55.

ONLINE

Armenian Weekly,http://www.hairenik.com/armenianweekly/ (March 10, 2007), Tamara C. Gureghian, review of The Knock at the Door.

Beaufort Books Web site,http://www.beaufortbooks.com/ (November 27, 2007), biography of Margaret Ajemian Ahnert.

GalleyCat,http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ (November 27, 2007), "How Not to Disrupt an Author Event."

Iararat Web log,http://iararat.wordpress.com/ (April 24, 2007), review of The Knock at the Door.

Margaret Ahnert Home Page,http://www.margaretahnert.com (November 27, 2007).

Monsters and Critics,http://www.monstersandcritics.com/ (September 14, 2007), Jessica Schneider, review of The Knock at the Door.