My Armenian Genesis:
The Last Survivor

by Mary L. Movsisian Foess
Lulu.com, 2013

Reviewed by Barbara Free

Note: A previous edition of this book was reviewed in the October 2010 edition of the Operation Identity Newsletter.

     This book is essentially two stories of the author’s life—her relinquishment, adoption, and search for her birth families, and subsequent reunions, but also her Armenian background on her birth mother’s side, which the author grew up not knowing about, and which she later tried to become part of, with only limited success. If that sounds complicated, even convoluted, it is.
     Both of these story lines, and how they come together, are compelling and fascinating, but sometimes difficult for the reader to follow, due to the chronology going back and forth at times, and to the author’s inclusion of a great deal of inner dialogue. By that we mean her own thoughts, sometimes written as if they were actually her speaking, sometimes in quotation marks, sometimes not. She writes, for instance, “I nearly said aloud,” or “I said in an inaudible voice.” She also recounts many dreams, sometimes labeled “night visions,” which are hard to distinguish from her daytime thoughts or actual occurrences. These dreams and thoughts are relevant to her frame of mind and viewpoint, but they may be confusing at times to the reader.
     Because the author’s story is so compelling, and so complex, one wishes she might have had the advantage of a professional publishing house, with a meticulous editor and proofreader. She has worked on this book for many years. Unfortunately, there are so many adoption/reunion stories now that most publishing houses won’t take a chance on a new one. Hence, self-publishing, so much easier in this digital age, has become an alternative for people wanting to share their stories. Ms. Foess has put many years into her search and also into writing her experiences, and it soon becomes apparent to the reader that she has put her heart and soul into all of it.
     She is a very passionate person, with a sense of urgency at all times, about finding her information, about getting to know all her birth family, and about adoption records becoming more accessible to all those who wish to search. Nothing is ever mild or half-way about her! Many of her family members, both adoptive, birth, and her own offspring, had difficulty with that, and the reader will have to accept that about her, or be extremely frustrated.
     This is a very personal book, and she has a hunger for details and history. There are many details that most of us, raised by birth family, for good or for bad, take for granted, such as stories about one’s own birth and infancy, one’s ethnic or genetic background, who our grandparents were, etc. For adoptees in closed adoptions, many of these facts and details, these stories, are not known and are inaccessible until and unless the adoptee searches and finds their birth family.
     Ms. Foess is tenacious, persistent, and not intimidated by anyone else’s rules or desires. This reviewer has corresponded and spoken by telephone with her numerous times over the years, as she has gradually developed the book, and as she has worked for adoptees’ access to their records in Michigan. She lives in Michigan, and grew up there, but that is not where she was born nor adopted. She is sincere and relentless, which is relevant to the book, because had she been less so, she would not have made the headway she did in finding her family connections, even though these same traits caused some to cut off communication with her.
     Most readers will not be familiar with the details of Armenian conflict with Turkey in the early 20th century, which resulted in many deaths and in many Armenian refugees coming to the United States at that time. The author’s birth name (her mother’s name) was Movsisian. Her grandparents and extended family were among those Armenian refugees, and she is the last one of her particular family to have carried the Movsisian name, prior to her adoption. No doubt some readers will be inspired to learn more about the whole story of the Armenians and their culture. For the author, this has been an odyssey.
     The format of the book is large, 8Y x 11, and the text is double-spaced, so one might think that, even at 267 pages, it would be a fairly quick read. However, due to the details and complexity of the story, it is not. Yet one does keep reading, wondering what will happen next, as she finds her birth mother’s family, then her birth father’s identity and then his family. She never achieves the emotional closeness she so much wants, but she keeps finding her own identity in different ways.
     My Armenian Genesis will be available in the O.I. lending library, or can be ordered through the following web sites: amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or Kobobooks.com. She can also be reached at 1-989-823-4013 (Eastern Time) or by e-mail at mlfoess@gmail.com.

Excerpted from the October 2015 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2015 Operation Identity