The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn MacKeen is the inspiring story of a young Armenian’s harrowing escape from genocide and of his granddaughter’s quest to retrace his steps
Growing up, Dawn MacKeen heard fragments of her grandfather Stepan Miskjian’s story, of how he was swept up in the deadly mass deportation of Armenians during World War I and of how he miraculously managed to escape.
Stepan kept meticulous journals of his entire story, a “road map to his life,” which MacKeen felt compelled to follow by traveling to Turkey and Syria to walk in his steps—a dangerous venture since it was illegal there to even mention this part of history. But she had to “taste his thirst, touch the land where he walked. See the green hills surrounding his Adabazar, where his dreams of becoming the town’s first courier had taken root, before they withered and died in the desert.”
Part reportage, part memoir, The Hundred Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s tale of resilience and Dawn’s remarkable journey, giving us a rare eyewitness account of the twentieth century’s first large-scale genocide. It’s filled with edge of your seat escapes and accounts of lifesaving kindnesses in the harsh desert. And it’s in the desert that Dawn finds the unexpected: the secret to Stepan’s survival.
MacKeen is an award-winning investigative journalist who has written for places like the New York Times Magazine, Salon, Elle, and Newsday. But several factors almost kept her from writing this astounding piece of history. To name just a few.
-Her grandfather barely survived the Armenian genocide. He escaped countless times, and all that he witnessed almost died with him.
-In 2006, MacKeen discovered four more notebooks just as she was about to quit the book for lack of additional information. These included Stepan’s life before WWI.
-In Raqqa, Syria, she met a Bedouin sheikh who helped her find the family of the Arab sheikh who saved her grandfather’s life. By the time she had returned to Syria in 2009, the Bedouin sheikh had died.
The war in Syria now makes travel to the country impossible. A century later, history is repeating itself along the Euphrates, where MacKeen traveled; the area has once again become a cemetery.
The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey will be published on January 12, 2016, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt