Book of the Week: Not Even My Name by Thea Halo


Not Even My Name is the unforgettable story of Sano Halo’s survival of the death march at age 10 that annihilated her family as told to her daughter, Thea and the poignant mother/ daughter pilgrimage to Turkey in search of Sano’s home 70 years after her exile. Sano, a Pontic Greek from a mountain village near the Black Sea, also recounts her ancient, pastoral way of life in the Pontic Mountains.

The dreadful realization that something was amiss came little by little to Sano’s village. Strangers began to inhabit the fields and forests, always watching from a distance like birds of prey. Turkish soldiers made periodic raids to seize men for slave labor in foul, lice-infested labor camps, where most died of disease, malnutrition and exposure. Then in the spring of 1920, Turkish soldiers pounded on doors with the butts of their rifles and shouted General Mustafa Kemal’s (Ataturk) proclamation: “You are to leave this place. You are to take with you only what you can carry ” On their death march, victims lay where they fell and buzzards hung above their heads. So ended the 3,000 year history of the Pontic Greeks in Turkey.

Stripped of everything she had ever held dear, even her name, at age 15 Sano was sold into marriage to a man who brought her to America. He was three times her age.  Not Even My Name follows Sano’s marriage, the raising of her ten children, and her transformation from an innocent girl who lived an ancient way of life in a remote place, to a nurturing mother and determined woman in twentieth-century New York City.

Although Turkey actively suppresses the truth about the slaughter of almost 3 million of its Christian minorities – Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian – during and after World War I, and the exile of millions of others, here is a rare, firsthand account of the horrors of that genocide. But Sano’s story is also one of triumph; a brilliant and mesmerizing memoir written in haunting and eloquent prose, Not Even My Name weaves a seamless texture of individual memory that evokes all the suspense and drama of the best told tales.

Get Not Even My Name here.



“A story of personal strength and the great triumph of mere survival”

“Deeply moving… it is impossible to read the story of this woman’s life without marveling at the strength of her spirit.”

“…a triumphant narrative of exceptional magnitude. As an historian, daughter, writer of vivid and arresting prose, and standard bearer of truth, Thea Halo has thus given an invaluable gift to the world.”

A survivor’s tale from Turkish death marches in 1920 that killed thousands of ethnic Greeks. Young Themia lost family, freedom, even her name – changed to Sano by her cruel mistress. Her daughter tells the sad story with simple grace.

“The harrowing story of the slaughter of two million Pontic Greeks and Armenians in Turkey after WWI comes to vivid life” in this memoir by the daughter of a survivor, who has written “an eloquent and powerful account of this tragic chapter in Turkish history.”

LIBRARY JOURNAL – STARRED REVIEW The Armenian genocide in Turkey during World War I is widely known. Almost unknown, however, is the annihilation of the Pontic Greeks, who had lived for 3000 years in the Pontic Mountains near the Black Sea, by Kemal Ataturk’s military forces after the war. In 1921, one survivor, ten-year-old Sano Halo (the author’s mother), was forced with her entire village on a nearly year-long death march to Syria. …Sano’s is truly an amazing story of survival and resilience … Even more remarkable is the lack of rancor, which so often permeates survivors’ memoirs. … An important and revealing book; highly recommended for all libraries. —Ruth K. Baacke,

“An unforgettable book” – Hazel Rochman

In telling her mother’s epic story of survival and ultimate triumph in America, Thea Halo has written an important book about a largely unknown history: the genocide of the Pontic Greeks at the hands of the Turkish government in the years following World War I. Halo’s deeply moving portrait of her mother reverberates with large moral issues that affect us all.  -Peter Balakian, author of Black Dog of Fate

As written by her daughter Thea, Sano Halo’s harrowing account of the destruction of her family and her world is told with such vivid detail that every page sears the mind and the heart. Not Even My Name is a work of burning intensity, self evidently powerful and true.  – Nicholas Gage, author of Eleni


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