Lavash: What Armenians ate if they could get it (excerpt #11)

Nazli has been able to persuade her mother to help host a henna party for Nazli’s friend Annie. In her discussion with her mother after the party, Nazli is flabbergasted by her mother’s real reason for going along with her headstrong daughter’s wishes.

The following is an excerpt from Nazli’s diary that is included in the book Lavash: What Armenians ate if they could get it.

Chapter 7

Iyi arkadashim, 23rd July, 1914

My good friend, the henna party for Annie was a great success! Everyone had a good time. Mam made such tasty saffron rice with chicken. To drink, she made sherbet sweetened with grape sugar. Annie’s mother and aunt brought almond cakes and grapes. The hammam attendant made Turkish coffee. Delicious.

Annie looked like a Turkish bride wrapped in her white cotton towel and blessed with our henna marks of health and beauty. When we got home that afternoon, I was bubbling over with excitement, of course. But Mam’s reaction to the event surprised me.

“What are you so happy about?” she demanded with a scowl. “That should have been a party for you, not some dirty gavur!”

I stood with my head down for some time. Then I sucked in a deep breath before I said, “Dirty gavur? How can you say that? Annie and all of the women and girls in her family bathed right beside us.”

“Nazli, you know I don’t like Armenians. Never have. Never will. I agreed to host that party for one reason only. I hoped at least one of the Turkish women there might select you as a bride for her son.”

My mouth dropped open. “Mam, how could you?”

Quaking with anger and fear, I tore for my bedroom. To think that my mam viewed the henna party for Annie as nothing more than a baited hunt for a husband for me. As I write this, dear friend, I wish with all my heart that her ploy will catch nothing.

Nazli has not seen the end of underhanded reasons for the actions of both her mam and her mayoral baba. During the months leading up to June of 1915, Nazli struggles to understand and at times circumvent the decisions that her parents and the other Turkish leaders of her town make against her friend Annie, Annie’s relatives, and the other Armenians in and around their town in central Ottoman Turkey.  

 

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