Powerful Stories: Novels about the Armenian Genocide

April 24, 2015 | Kelli

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On April 24, 1915 several hundred Armenian intellectuals were rounded up, arrested and later executed. This event is generally viewed as the beginning of the Armenian genocide. Over the next few years, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were either massacred or deported from the former Ottoman Empire.  Overshadowed by World War 1, much of the world was unaware of the tragedy that was happening in Turkey at that time. Every year, Armenians around the world mark April 24th as a day of remembrance. This year is particularly poignant as it marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the massacres. 

Reading historical fiction can be a great way to learn more about historical events. This recently published, debut novel by Aline Ohanesian, set partially in Turkey during the massacres, is receiving positive reviews

Orhan's inheritanceWhen Orhan's brilliant grandfather, Kemal, is found dead in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old rug business. Other provisions in Kemal's will are much more surprising. Kemal has left the family estate to Seda, a stranger living thousands of miles away in a retirement home in Los Angeles. Orhan's family has no idea why Kemal left their home to this woman rather than to his own family.   Intent on finding answers,  Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There he unearths a story that has the power to unravel Kemal's legacy and Orhan's own future. The Toronto Public Library has Orhan's Inheritance on order, so place your hold now.

 

 

While you are waiting, here are some other novels about the Armenian genocide:

Bastard of istanbul Gendarme Sandcastle girls Skylark farm Summer Without Dawn

Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
From one of Turkey'’s most acclaimed writers, this the story of Asya, her mother and her three aunts who all live together in Istanbul. When the step daughter of Asya's estranged uncle arrives from the States, a secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres.
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The Gendarme by Mark Mustian
At age 92, Emmett Conn has had amnesia for 70 years, caused by his WWI injuries. Following surgery for a brain tumour, his past returns through disturbing dreams. There he relives his actions as a Turkish gendarme in the forced death march of thousands of Armenians into Syria and his obsession with a beautiful young Armenian girl, Araxie. After these revelations, Emmett decides that he must find Araxie and beg her forgiveness.

Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
When Elizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Syria, to bring aid to the Armenian deportees, she meets Armen Petrosian. In spite of the loss and horror around them, they fall in love. In a parallel story, Laura Petrosian, Elizabeth and Armen's great-granddaughter, discovers some letters and photos and begins to piece their story together.
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Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan, translated from Italian by Geoffrey Brock
In May 1915, Yerwant, after spending 40 years in Italy, is planning a long-awaited reunion with his family in Turkey. But then Italy enters the Great War and closes its borders. At the same time, his family begins a brutal odyssey of forced marches and prison camps at the hands of the Young Turks. They must struggle to survive as they set out to reach Yerwant, and safety, in Italy.
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A Summer without Dawn by A. J. Hacikyan and Jean-Yves Soucy, translated from French by Christina Le Vernoy and Joyce Bailey
In the summer of 1915, days after the beginning of the deportation, Armenian journalist Vartan Balian is separated from his family and imprisoned. After a daring escape, he becomes a fugitive and begins the search for his wife and their young son.

If you prefer to read history over historical fiction, there are many non-fiction books on the Armenian genocide available to borrow.

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