Marjorie Housepian Dobkin (1922-2013)

11 February 2013

Marjorie Housepian Dobkin (November 21, 1922 - February 8, 2013) was one of the most prominent Armenian-American writers of her generation. Her first novel, A Houseful of Love was published by Random House in 1957 to great critical acclaim and was a New York Times best seller. The legendary publisher and editor Bennett Cerf was her editor and A Houseful of Love was published in numerous foreign editions; the novel took her around the world including to the Soviet Union of the 1950s, at a time when few American writers were able to travel there.

Her book The Smyrna Affair (1971; also published as Smyrna 1922) has been considered by many scholars to be the most important study of the Turkish burning of the ancient Greek city of Smyrna in Turkey in 1922—an event that bridged the end of Ottoman Empire with the founding of the modern Turkish Republic. Her book was translated into various languages and has had several editions over the years.

"The Unremembered Genocide," her 1966 article published in Commentary was the first major essay about the Armenian Genocide in the post-war era and had a great impact reinvigorating public awareness about the event that started the modern age of Genocide. Marjorie was a leading public voice on the Armenian genocide both in the United States and abroad.

She was the editor of The Making of A Feminist: Early Journals and Letters of M. Carey Thomas, the novel Inside Out with Jean Cullen, and stories and essays published in The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and other places.

A native of New York City, Ms. Dobkin graduated from Barnard College in 1944. From 1957 until 1993, she was both a professor of literature and writing as well as associate dean of students at Barnard. She played an important role in the establishment of the permanent chair for Armenian Studies at Columbia University and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Armenian Center at Columbia and a member of the Anahit Literary Award Committee sponsored by Columbia's Armenian Center.

As an educator Ms. Housepian Dobkin was a mentor to many young writers and students. She lectured widely nationally and internationally, especially on the Armenian Genocide and the psychology and dynamics of the Turkish government's denial.

She was the daughter of the late Dr. Movses and Makrouhi Housepian, both Genocide survivors who were heroic in their outreach to a community still reeling from the effects of that cataclysm. Marjorie was married to the late Machbi Dobkin. She is survived by three sons—Stephen Johnson, Daniel Dobkin, and Jonathan Dobkin—as well as by her brother, Dr. Edgar M. Housepian.