My current YA project, Fire and Sky, is based on true events, and relates to my own family’s Ottoman Empire past. In 1919, the Greek army, which included my grandfather, occupied the Turkish city of Smyrna (present day Izmir) in a bid to create a modern “Greek Empire.” In retaliation, the Turkish army burned the glistening city of Smyrna, where my grandmother was born and grew up, to the ground in 1922. This story follows the struggles of two teens, ethnically Greek Elisavet and her Turkish best friend Sevi, as they confront the violence around them–and help save the lives of 250,000 people.
In the aftermath of the Greek and Turkish War of 1919 to 1922, there was a forced population exchange. One and a half million Christians from Turkey (ethnic Greeks and Armenians) were sent to Greece, while half a million Muslims from Greece were resettled in Turkey. The Treaty of Lausanne became a notorious model for future ethno-religious “purification” treaties (such as that between Pakistan and India) for the rest of the 20th century.