By Taleen Babayan
NEW YORK — For years, the stories were told in hushed voices. The tragic true-life tales would escape the lips of the survivors in the privacy of their homes as they revealed their struggles to family members, not only to ease the burdens of their harrowing pasts, but to make sure one of the most mournful chapters in the history of their people would never be forgotten.
For too long, it had been a story only for Armenians. With the emergence of a new generation of writers, however, came a new approach. They believed that the stories previously told in secrecy should now be told to the world. The latest of these is New York Times bestselling author Chris Bohjalian’s critically-acclaimed novel, The Sandcastle Girls. Bohjalian will lead a book discussion at Columbia University on Thursday, April 18, in an event hosted by the Armenian Center at Columbia University.
A love story that takes place during the Armenian Genocide between an Armenian engineer and an American nurse, The Sandcastle Girls follows a Genocide survivor’s granddaughter as she tries to uncover her family’s history and the sorrows of the Armenian massacres that she learns about along the way.
Bohjalian, who is the author of 16 books, has received high praise and accolades from literary critics and readers since his first novel was published 25 years ago. His novel, Midwives, was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club and Winfrey also selected The Sandcastle Girls as her Book of the Week. Literary praise for Bohjalian’s writing and for the accurate historical portrayal of the Armenian Genocide in The Sandcastle Girls have been recognized by major news outlets including USA Today, Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
“I have been overwhelmed by the support for this novel by the Armenian community around the world. I am deeply and profoundly grateful,” said Bohjalian, whose Armenian grandparents on his father’s side were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. “Whenever I’ve spoken to audiences that are predominantly Armenian, I have left moved beyond words,” said Bohjalian.