LOS ANGELES, CA – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) hosted in April a discussion and book signing with critically-acclaimed novelist Chris Bohjalian, the #1 New York Times bestselling author. Aline Ohanesian, herself an acclaimed writer, moderated the event, which was followed by a question and answer session with the audience. After the discussion, guests had an opportunity to have books signed by their respective authors.
Bohjalian spoke to the audience about his books, of which he has written 19. Several have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Hartford Courant, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.
His new novel, The Sleepwalker, which was published in January 2017 received a glowing review in Publishers Weekly: “Bohjalian’s storytelling makes this a beautiful, frightening, and unforgettable read.” Julie Kane in the Library Journal wrote: “Bohjalian powerfully narrates an intricately nuanced romance. This is not to be missed. Simply astounding.”
In his epic novel, The Sandcastle Girls, Bohjalian explored the Armenian Genocide from the perspective of the protagonist Elizabeth Endicott, who joins her father in traveling to Aleppo, Syria to provide aid to deported Armenians. There, she falls in love with Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer searching for his wife and child despite being certain they are dead.
Ohanesian, the moderator, is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Orhan’s Inheritance, which was long-listed for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, a Summer 2015 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, a April 2014 Indie Next pick, and an Amazon Top 25 pick for 2015. The novel was also a finalist for the PEN Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction.
During the insightful discussion between Bohjalian and Ohanesian, the authors shared their respective thoughts on the repercussions of the Armenian Genocide, continued Turkish denial, and the impact of the genocide on their own works of fiction. Bohjalian also reflected upon his visit to historic western Armenia during the centenary of the genocide, as well as his visit to Armenia and Artsakh in September 2016, during which he met with soldiers and civilians alike. Bohjalian shared that filmmaker Eric Nazarian will create a motion picture based on the story of The Sandcastle Girls.
The Assembly also facilitated an hour-long conversation between Bohjalian and 8th grade students of the Pasadena-based St. Gregory A. & M. Hovsepian School. The school’s principal, Shahe Mankerian, and Armenian Department Chair, Liza Manoyan, joined the students in a dynamic discussion with the author. The students asked questions about the art of writing, the research that authors are required to do in preparation for writing a book or short story, character-shaping in a work of fiction, as well as the difference between publishing in e-book versus traditional print.
“I had a wonderful time with the Armenian Assembly. First of all, the kids at the Hovsepian School rock. My morning experience with them energized and inspired me. And in the evening I had a terrific time with the adults, discussing what books can mean to the soul,” Bohjalian said. “Aline Ohanesian is such a gifted novelist that it was a joy to share the dais with her. Armenian writers, filmmakers, musicians, and photographers have been doing yeomanlike work to champion Armenian causes lately. Artists can be activists, supporting the important work of groups like the Armenian Assembly – and it is such an honor to do so and play a part,” he added.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
Photo Caption 1: Chris Bohjalian and Aline Ohanesian
Photo Caption 2: Chris Bohjalian and Aline Ohanesian
Photo Caption 3: Chris Bohjalian speaking with students from St. Gregory A. & M. Hovsepian School