The Immigrant’s Daughter
“The Immigrant’s Daughter” is the story of Mary Terzian’s childhood in Cairo, Egypt. She is the daughter of immigrants who escaped genocide and settled in Egypt. She lives in a world where cultural identity is very important, therefore she attends an Armenian school. Later, her stepmother does not appreciate the Armenian culture, much to the family’s consternation. Mary lives in an environment where boys are valued and girls are seen as a burden, and this is a point that is drilled into her head her entire life. Unable to be accepted within her own family for who she is, she finds it all the harder to explain her roots to the outside world. Immigrants without a country do not have national passports.
From the very first page, we are able to see the spark in Ms. Terzian that no doubt helped her surpass many of the barriers she faced in her life. Her temptation to answer the question “Where do you come from?” with the answer “From my mother’s womb” would be funny if it were not so sad. She has spent a lifetime unsure of her classification in the world, and even into adulthood, “where do you come from” is an impossible question to answer.
Ms. Terzian did a fine job of sharing her life with the reader. The book almost reads more like a collection of short stories than it does a traditional biography. Through her stories and anecdotes, we are treated to an insider’s view of what it was like to grow up in Mary’s world. We felt the loss of her mother and suffered with Mary as she battled the stepmother her father brought into their home. The loss of her mother had a much greater impact on Mary than anyone else, as her mother was her only protector. After her death, Mary’s struggles with identity and her place in her family and her world became more pronounced.
Mary ultimately triumphs over the father and the culture that tried to keep her in their control. She grows into a strong, independent woman who realizes that she has as much to offer the world as it has to offer her.