Bohjalian speaks out during centennial of Armenian genocide
Chris Bohjalian’s grandparents survived the Armenian genocide and emigrated to America. But like many a child of immigrants, his father, Aram, wanted to assimilate as much as possible.
“My dad grew up speaking Armenian, but I was 14 years old before I discovered he could speak Armenian fluently,” Chris Bohjalian said. “He wanted to be as American as he could.”
Chris Bohjalian, a Lincoln writer who just released the novel “The Guest Room,” grew up in suburban New York, just north of the city. But his ancestral connections to Armenia were important — especially in 2015.
Doubleday had originally scheduled publication of “The Guest Room” for last summer. But Bohjalian asked them to hold the release date until early 2016, as 2015 marked the centennial of the Armenian genocide. On the night of April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities rounded up and executed a host of Armenian intellectuals, professionals, editors and religious leaders in Constantinople and the Armenian genocide began.
“In the years that followed,” wrote Bohjalian in an opinion piece in the Boston Globe, “three out of every four Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were systematically annihilated by their own government: 1.5 million people. The majority of Armenians alive today are descendants of those few who survived.”
As a novelist, Bohjalian directly addressed those events in his 2012 novel “Sandcastle Girls.”
For the 2015 centennial, Bohjalian spent much of the year speaking and making public appearances both nationally and internationally. He is especially proud that Vermont legislators passed a special resolution commemorating the centennial and held a special day of commemoration last March. Vermont officially acknowledged the Armenian genocide under Gov. Douglas in 2004.
For Bohjalian, 100 years later, it matters deeply that the Armenian genocide gain wider recognition and acknowledgment.
“It matters first of all because the last stage in any genocide is denial, which is the first stage in subsequent genocides. There’s a direct link between the Armenian genocide, the Jewish Holocaust, the Cambodian killing fields, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur. It’s a very, very long list.
“It matters because it is a great open wound for an awful lot of Armenians. A cataclysmic unpunished crime,” Bohjalian said.
“And it matters because of justice.”