Marcom, Micheline Aharonian 1968–
MARCOM, Micheline Aharonian 1968–
Office—Upward Bound, Carnegie Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613.
Mills College, Oakland, CA, Upward Bound counselor and instructor in English.
Armenian Studies Anahid Literary Award, Columbia University; first place Graduate Fiction Prize, Mills College; Lannan Foundation Fellowship, 2004.
Three Apples Fell from Heaven (novel; first book in the "Three Apples" trilogy), Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2001.
The Dreaming Boy (novel), Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Micheline Aharonian Marcom's Three Apples Fell from Heaven, which was called a "powerful first novel" by Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman, is an account of the extermination of approximately one million Christian Armenians by Muslim Turks in an "ethnic cleansing" of the Ottoman Empire. This effort began in 1894, but reached its peak destruction during World War I, while the eyes of the world were focused elsewhere. "The killing of Armenians is clearly antecedent to both the Holocaust and the brutal doings in the former Yugoslavia, with particular resonance for students of the latter," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. The title comes from an old Armenian saying: "Three apples fell from heaven, one for the storyteller, one for the listener, and one for the eavesdropper." Los Angeles Times contributor Michael Krikorian felt the novel "is not a classic narrative. There is no one voice. It is a series of vignettes. Some tied together, some not. Some tender, some utterly brutal." The main character, Anaguil, is based on Marcom's Armenian grandmother, who died when Marcom was nine.
The details of the Armenian horrors are less well known than those of the Jewish Holocaust. Margot Livesey wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Marcom informs, "not with a diatribe or a lengthy historical account but by writing a relatively short, intensely vivid, novel." Marcom carefully researched the history of the atrocities, reading survivors' accounts and the memoirs of Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey during World War I. In the novel, a dentist's hands are cut from his arms, and a pregnant woman's belly is slit open and the baby pulled from her body, making the sound of a popping cork. "But the novel is much more than a catalog of horrors, however brilliantly described," said Livesey. "It is also about love and tenderness, the pleasures of custom and ritual, the moments of unexpected generosity and courage and, above all, the necessity of remembering—oneself, one's family, one's language, one's history."
Wilda Williams wrote in Library Journal that "so many characters appear briefly and promptly disappear that it is difficult to connect to any particular one," but the critic added that Marcom "does an important service" in writing about this tragedy. Characters include Dickran, a baby abandoned under a tree during an exodus, who narrates the end of his own life on earth, and Sargis, a young student who hides in his mother's attic and pens his poetry while losing his mind. Marcom writes of women, both Muslim and Christian. Livesey commented that "as one turns the pages of this novel it becomes clear that almost all the suffering is caused by men; women, left to their own devices, would never succumb to the lure of nationalism at the expense of their neighbors…. Andyet women often bear the brunt of male violence. Many of the Armenian girls who survive do so as slaves or mistresses." Krikorian wrote of "a tender scene of Anaguil trying to buy eggs at the Turkish market. All the Armenian men have been sent out of town to be killed. A Turkish egg seller offers extra eggs in exchange for sexual favors. Anaguil refuses, coming away with only one egg." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that the book's "highly mannered style manifests a debt to the postmodern novel and the fairy tale…. This book is not for the faint of heart, but its readers will be well rewarded."
Marcom continues her examination of the Armenian genocide in her 2004 novel, The Daydreaming Boy. Here she looks at how the awful events in Armenia affected the survivors. Set in Beirut, Lebanon, the novel traces the life of Vahe Tcheubjian, who survived the massacre as a five-year-old boy and was shipped to Beirut, where he spent the next decade in an orphanage. Now forty-six and married, Vahe suddenly recalls his barbaric behavior in his childhood orphanage, and begins to recreate his own beast-like behavior as an adult. Similarly, Eleanor J. Bader, writing in Library Journal, considered the novel to be "insightful and haunting," though she also felt it would have "benefited from more historical scaffolding." A critic for Kirkus Reviews wrote that The Daydreaming Boy "isn't easy going." The same reviewer, however, concluded that it is a "brave undertaking, if only partially successful." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly nevertheless concluded that this second work is an "elegant, penetrating novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Three Apples Fell from Heaven, p. 1354.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2001, review of Three Apples Fell from Heaven, p. 354; February 15, 2004, review of The Daydreaming Boy, p. 148.
Library Journal, May 15, 2001, Wilda Williams, review of Three Apples Fell from Heaven, p. 164; April 15, 2004, Eleanor J. Bader, review of The Daydreaming Boy, p. 126.
Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2001, Michael Krikorian, "Feeling Wronged, She Did Write; A Novel about the Armenian Genocide Is Infused with a Very Personal Perspective," p. E1.
New York Times Book Review, April 22, 2001, Margot Livesey, "Ghost Story," p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2001, review of Three Apples Fell from Heaven, p. 62; April 19, 2004, review of The Daydreaming Boy, p. 42.*