By Nora Vosbigian

Elma Hovanessian decided to write her memoirs after the success of her first book, Under the Blue Dome. Whenever she gave book presentations people were interested in her personal background as an Iranian-Armenian. They were fascinated by her family life in Iran, descriptions of her grandfather’s caravan trips to India from New Julfa, life in the beautiful Armenian quarter in Isfahan, the occupation of Iran by the Allied Forces in WWII, student days at Tehran University… So she decided to write her autobiography.
The hardest part of writing her story was the first chapter. Once started, the rest was easy. Memories started to flow from the recesses of her mind, as she remembered her childhood, adolescence and beyond. Then came the exploratory stage of her book, as she gathered additional information to flesh out details. She interviewed friends and relatives with incredible memories.
***
Elma grew up in a multi-cultural Iran. She attended Iranian schools and Tehran University. All of her classes were in Persian (Farsi). Her classmates included students of various ethnic and religious minorities, like Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Baha’is and Turks from Iranian Azerbaijan. They were all part of Iran’s rich tapestry of people.
For young Armenians, there were the Ararat Cultural Center and the Armenian University Students Society where they were introduced to the Armenian culture and a sense of ethnic identity. The Armenian Church played an important part in acquainting them with their religious traditions through annual activities and festivities, such as Easter Sunday, Tiandarach, Vartavar, and Hambartzoum.
While living in Iran, Armenians felt themselves to be Iranian citizens of Armenian origin. The sense of being Iranian-Armenian actually grew when they left Iran and came face-to-face with other Armenian, such as those from Cyprus, Lebanon, and Soviet Armenia.
***
Elma lived in London at different times in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and then moved to Los Angeles. In those days the Armenian community in London was dominated by Armenians from Cyprus. Los Angeles was quite different, with its large Iranian, and Iranian-Armenian community. He felt more comfortable there.
***
What did Elma miss about Iran? The Caspian Sea in summer, with its warm waters and the soft sandy beaches. Her home in Tehran with its balcony overlooking the busy, noisy Naderi Avenue. And her youth spent in that country, with its wonderfully uncomplicated life, surrounded by her extended family and friends. She misses the Armenian cultural and social life, a remarkable community that had flourished and refined throughout hundreds of years of existence.
One Life, Three Cultures is a beautifully written work which gives a fascinating glimpse into one of Iran’s oldest communities.
BIBLIOINFO: Elma Hovanessian, One Life, Three Cultures: An Iranian Armenian Odyssey, London: Taderon Press, 222 pages, 19 photos. ISBN 9781903656389. US$22.00 / UK£ 16.00.

1 comment
  1. Very nice concept for a book. Glad to see something that highlights the good memories of fellow Armenians. I will get this, and enjoy reading it. And cherish the opportunity to get to know better, the roots of my BarskaHai compatriots.

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