Meline Toumani

Meline Toumani has written extensively for The New York Times on Turkey and Armenia as well as on music, dance, and film. Her work has also appeared in n+1, The Nation, Salon, and The Boston Globe. A journalism fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, she was also the coordinator of the Russian-American Journalism Institute in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Born in Iran and ethnically Armenian, she grew up in New Jersey and California and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Meline Toumani

Official Sites

Sign Up for
Author Updates

Macmillan Newsletter

Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

Author on the Web

Meline Toumani

Official Sites


Q & A

Where are you from?

I was born in Tehran, Iran, but I grew up in New Jersey and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Who are your favorite writers?

David Grossman, James Baldwin, Andre Aciman, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ryszard Kapuscinski.

Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
The Yellow Wind by David Grossman, My Traitor’s Heart by Rian Malan, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Singing, cooking, running, meditation.

What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

When I was first getting used to riding my bike around New York City, I often panicked and lost my balance when I had to navigate narrow passages between cars, or on the two-way bike lanes of bridges. My partner told me to focus on what I wanted to move toward, not on what I wanted to avoid. It works like magic, and not just for biking.

What is your favorite quote?
"When late, walk more slowly." I’m not sure where I heard this, but it’s a Buddhist notion that speaks to the value of remaining mindful when things feel chaotic.

What is the question most commonly asked by your readers?  What is the answer?
With regard to this book, people always ask me the same question: why is it so hard for Turkey to acknowledge what happened? That was one of the questions I started out with, too. If I could answer it in one or two lines I wouldn’t have needed to write this book.   

What inspired you to write your first book?
I knew I needed to write this book when I found myself circling back to the same concerns in essays and articles, even as I kept insisting I never wanted to write about Armenians again. One day I realized, in the most natural way possible, that I needed the full space of a book to work out my thoughts so that I could find a sense of resolution and move on.   

Where do you write?
I don’t get attached to specific locations for writing; "where" is the easy part—the hard part is the stuff you carry with you no matter where you go.


by the author

There Was and There Was Not

Meline Toumani
Metropolitan Books

A young Armenian-American goes to Turkey in a “love thine enemy” experiment that becomes a transformative reflection on how we use—and abuse—our personal...

Available In:

Available 11/4/2014