Book and Film Review: My Mother’s Voice – A Genocide Survival Story
GLENDALE, CA — My Mother’s Voice, an updated book (2013 Edition) and new documentary, tell the moving story of Flora Munushian’s teenage years, and are written and produced by her daughter Kay Mouradian. From 1914-1919, Flora traveled from Hadjin, Turkey to Aleppo, Syria then ultimately to the United States, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.
“I am my mother’s voice,” Kay Mouradian declares in the new edition of her book and her moving documentary. “She told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to write a book about her.” This hadn’t been Mouradian’s goal or even a thought until her mother’s last years. Luckily, she did take up the challenge, presenting the story of her mother’s harrowing teenage years from 1915-1919.
Flora Munushian was a 14-year-old Armenian girl attending an American school in Hadjin, Turkey when a deportation order forced her community on a death march to Der Zor. Her father managed to stow his daughters in Aleppo, where she and her sister hid for the duration of WWI. Flora never saw her parents or her brothers again. At the age of 18, she sailed to the U.S. to marry an Armenian man she’d never met.
Mouradian’s narrative is well-paced and action-packed, with the right amount of carefully researched details. Told from her mother’s point of view, the story highlights Flora’s drive to get an education, her youthful idealism and her inner strength. The book is a great read for both young readers and adults, with a positive message and story arc.
The film based on the book takes a more historical look at the genocide’s impact on Flora and her family. Among its visuals: a copy and translation of the deportation order posted in Hadjin; a photograph of Rev. Hovhanness Eskijian, who rescued Flora, her sister and hundreds of Armenian orphans in Aleppo; and a photograph of Flora’s family – most of whom perished during the march or in Der Zor.
A neighbor introduced Mouradian to award-winning filmmaker Mark Friedman, who worked diligently with her to produce the documentary. “He was so far-sighted, and very resourceful,” Mouradian said. Together they searched out original film footage and were able to use portions of the 1919 silent film Ravished Armenia that appears on Zareh Tjeknavorian’s DVD Credo.
Tjeknavorian wrote to Mouradian, “Congratulations to you and Mark for so beautifully and affectingly bringing the message of your mother’s life to the world. Her voice speaks so eloquently through your own. This film, and the vast history it artfully distills into such a poignant and positive personal story is as much a testimony to the resiliency of family and culture across generations as it is to the evil that sought to destroy them. I am sure it will go a long way to honoring the memory of Flora and the millions she speaks for.”
Mouradian’s South Pasadena community links not only got her introduced to a top-notch film collaborator, they have also supported and recognized her educational and civic endeavors. While serving as LA Community College Professor of Health and Physical Education, she published guidebooks and studies on yoga. She was honored for her professional and literary achievements by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who named her 2012 Woman of the Year for South Pasadena.
The South Pasadena audience at a preview of the documentary last September was strongly affected by the film. “The film is tastefully, artfully done, the music is beautiful, and your narration hit all the right notes,” one viewer wrote later. “It’s a shock (and a shame) that this subject is not taught in high school history classes. I sure didn’t know much about it until I moved to Glendale and started talking with Armenian friends.”
My Mother’s Voice premiered at Toronto’s Pomegranate Film Festival in October 2012, and was also featured at Los Angeles’ ARPA Film Festival in December 2012.
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