By: John Christie
Publisher: Plaidswede Publishing Co.
Publication: April 2020
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 12, 2020
John Christie delivers a heartfelt and touching memoir of his family history among the pages of The Prince of Wentworth Street.
One hundred years beyond the Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, journalist John Christie is at a crossroads in his life. Faced with personal struggles, it was time to put his journalistic skills to use and wander down that long-ago road of his familial history in search of answers. Once committed to the writing, Christie is superb in capturing the essence of situations and a world he had no idea existed; a world that was darkened by the horrific shadow of genocide.
Christie opens his story with an introduction of who he is and the fact that he spent the better part of his life writing as a reporter: “...I wrote about city council meetings and presidential campaigns; I dug up stories about police brutality and government fraud; I composted features about Boston’s street people and antiquarian bookstores...the work always began the same way. Start with the facts: Calculate the increase in the city’s budget. Get quotes from the mayor and city councilors. Interview some homeowners...This writing was different. Writing about your own life is an attempt to unearth some essential truth, and the truth is more than a summary of facts...” What Christie discovers early on in his project is the truth; a truth that is foundational to his memoir. His story ebbs and flows in waves of melancholy sometimes and anger others. The resounding revelation throughout, however, is that his life is a part of an egregious tragedy against people who were blood relations to him.
The Armenian Genocide occurred over a century ago in Suedia, a small Turkish village near the Mediterranean Sea and yet in modern day, it is an occurrence that is never to be discussed, but if the subject is ever broached, it never happened. If you were Armenian and Christian, you were a ‘kefir.’ Translated, ‘kefir’ means unbeliever. It was the mission of all Turks to wipe out every ‘kefir’ because the Ottoman Empire was ruled by Muslims and all other beings outside such faith were infidels. Fortunately for Christie, his Nana, the cornerstone of his memoir, not only escaped the imminent death of the Armenian Genocide but made her way to America. Twenty years beyond her death, for Christie to tell his truth, it was imperative he write her story as much as his own.
John Christie delivered an incredibly beautiful memoir. What I was thinking about how to formulate this review, my initial thought was: How do I capture the essence of this read simply by citing one or two occurrences when there are countless and notable moments he shares throughout this body of work? As an alternative, my overarching opinion for the entire body of work is: He is a master at anchoring his voice and he portrays great pride and love of and for his heritage throughout. There is a sublime sorrow the reader can often feel albeit Christie does not spell out the sadness. Rather, he is insistent and writes with conviction toward just how influentially significant the history of his family shaped him into the man (and writer) he is today. Not only was this a phenomenal read, it was an education in fact as much as humility and I thank Mr. Christie for sharing his story.
Quill says: The Prince of Wentworth Street is a fantastic portrayal of innocence as much as a depiction of wounds that never completely heal.