The Unspoken as Heritage

The Armenian Genocide and Its Unaccounted Lives

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: November 2019

European Studies, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, History

In the 1910s historian Harry Harootunian's parents Ohannes and Vehanush escaped the mass slaughter of the Armenian genocide, making their way to France, where they first met, before settling in suburban Detroit. Although his parents rarely spoke of their families and the horrors they survived, the genocide and their parents' silence about it was a permanent backdrop to the Harootunian children's upbringing. In The Unspoken as Heritage Harootunian—for the first time in his distinguished career—turns to his personal life and family heritage to explore the genocide's multigenerational afterlives that remain at the heart of the Armenian diaspora. Drawing on novels, anecdotes, and reports, Harootunian presents a composite sketch of the everyday life of his parents, from their childhood in East Anatolia to the difficulty of making new lives in the United States. A meditation on loss, inheritance, and survival—in which Harootunian attempts to come to terms with a history that is just beyond his reach—The Unspoken as Heritage demonstrates how the genocidal past never leaves the present, even in its silence.


“‘Genocide’ was first coined to portray the brutality of the Turkish state as it murdered the Armenian population living within its borders. Yet the Armenian genocide has become largely invisible, a part of history erased from common awareness. Harry Harootunian's chronicle of the Armenian genocide's impact on his family's hellish life forces us to reexamine what we do not know about our pasts and the causes and consequences of our ignorance. Through this remarkable account, Harootunian refuses to let his family die twice.” — Irene Silverblatt, Professor of Cultural Anthropology History, Duke University

The Unspoken as Heritage is a brave text offering something we all need: the recognition that a heritage shaped by catastrophe lingers, even thrives, in the unspoken and the everyday, rather than in the grand narratives of History. Harry Harootunian accounts for the unaccounted in the future tense, asking what should become of us as we live on in the wake of loss, rather than in the past tense of nationalist restoration. The rich and textured scraps of his parents lives, organized by ineradicable silence, here count for something potent: not the evidentiary, but the imaginative; not the exceptional, but the expectant.” — David Kazanjian, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania

"Elegantly written and intriguingly structured. . . For readers interested in the problem of genocide, in the silence of survivors, and in second-generation immigrants, The Unspoken as Heritage offers richly rewarding reflections from the point of view of someone who has confronted unanswered questions that have lingered from his childhood." — Werner Sollors, Critical Inquiry

“Harry Harootunian has authored a timely and thought-provoking book on the Armenian Genocide. The Unspoken as Heritage strikes a balance between the facts of the historical events and the author’s own personal journey to comprehend the full and complete tragedy that tore to shards his parents’ lives.” — Barbara Erysian, Canadian Journal of History

“Professor Harootunian has managed to produce a book of profound depth and beauty. It is equal parts a personal memoir, a sociological examination of the Armenian Genocide and its often-unexamined psychological effects on survivors and their children, and a meditation of what it is to be a second-generation immigrant in a country ensconced in mythic self-glorification.”
  — Artyom H. Tonoyan, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Harry Harootunian is Max Palevsky Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Chicago; professor emeritus of East Asian studies at New York University; and the author of numerous books, most recently, Uneven Moments: Reflections on Japan’s Modern History.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
1. The Unrealized Everyday: By Way of an Introduction  1
2. Unnoticed Lives/Unanswered Questions  17
3. Traces of a Vanished Everyday  37
4. History's Interruption: Dispossession and Genocide  87
5. House of Strangers/Diminished Lives  114
Epilogue. Returning to Ani  149
Notes  161
Bibliography  171
Index  175
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0628-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0510-0