Dr. Nina Garsoïan begins her masterfully written autobiography by introducing the reader to the émigré world into which she was born. She paints candid pictures of her parents and grandparents. She relates what is known of the family’s history in Rostov-on-Don (Russia) and Tbilisi (Georgia) and how, despite a series of trials and tribulations, they settled in France.
Dr. Garsoïan’s memoir is the story of a survivor. Not only did she live through the loss of her father and maternal grandfather when she was very young but she also survived being transplanted from her native Paris to New York at the tender age of ten. It is also a story of transition and evolution. She describes how in her late twenties she made the transition from an intended career in music to the role of a graduate student and an academic and how over the succeeding decades she began teaching at prestigious American universities. She guides her readers through the evolution of her academic focus from Classical Archaeology to Byzantine History and relates how her interests turned first from Byzantium to Armenia and then to the relations of Armenia with its neighbor to the east, the Sasanian Empire of Iran. She traces the development of her unique multicultural approach to the study of early Armenian history.
In addition, the memoir relates Dr. Garsoïan’s prominent role in the evolution of the Armenian Studies Program at Columbia University from the first classes she taught there beginning in 1962 to her appointment in 1979 to the newly created chair in Armenian History and Civilization through to her eventual retirement from the university in 1993.
Dr. Garsoïan shares with the reader numerous anecdotes regarding well-known personalities in the arts and in the academic world with whom she interacted both on the East Coast of the US and in Europe. Throughout the memoir she paints very vivid pictures in words of time spent in various countries in Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
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