The following letter was sent to author Adam Bagdasarian by AYFer Rachael Minassian on Dec. 5, 2011.
Dear Mr. Bagdasarian,
I am writing to tell you that your book Forgotten Fireis by far the best book that I have ever read. So few books are written about the Armenian Genocide, and it pains me that the United States doesn’t recognize the mass killing. Because the United States is allied with Turkey, the initiators of the genocide, they cannot commemorate the millions that lost their lives. As an Armenian, I can really relate to the book.
As I read the story, I was filled with anger over the injustice of the massacre. Not only did the book open my eyes to something awful and inhumane, but it also instilled in me a love and pride for my heritage that had been weak. I feel a strong connection to the persecuted Armenian family in the story. Throughout the novel, rape, poison, starvation, exhaustion, and disease all contribute to the book’s intensity. I thought that every event in the plot was full of power and emotion, but there was one part in particular that really stood out to me: When Armenouhi poisons herself in order to keep from being raped and murdered, I felt a raw and clenching pain in the pit of my stomach. She is the sister of the main character Vahan Kenderian, and I felt like I knew her personally. My eyes filled with tears when Vahan and the remainder of his family see her dead body in a pile of manure. She had been tossed aside as if she was garbage, something that had never been of any importance.
Though the book has an excellent, enrapturing plot, the ending is tragic. Before Vahan knew it, darkness had crept upon and shrouded his life. The entire family of Vahan, a mere teenage boy living in Armenia, had been killed mercilessly. He was alone and helpless in a country divided, and he was left to fend for himself. As quick as a wink, his comfortable and pleasant innocence had been taken away. He even had to witness everybody he cared about die a painful and terrible death.
I can’t say that Vahan’s struggles made me like Armenian food more. I can’t even say that I’d willingly listen to Armenian music. I don’t know if I’ll ever grow to prefer these things, but I do know one thing: I now appreciate the close bond among all Armenians. I used to think of the relaxed atmosphere at our church as strange, since the Catholic churches that I had visited were much more formal. I never understood why two Armenian people who met at random could chat for hours. After I read this book it made sense to me. When we were in trouble, we relied on each other to help us out. Fellow Armenians took in Vahan and gave him temporary homes. They protected him from harm and discovery. Now, there are so few of us that we’ve learned to love and accept each other with all of our flaws. Every Armenian function is like a family party because of our great affection for our own people. I also appreciate what I have and the place I live in because of this book. It brought to my attention that happiness is as fragile as a china plate perched on the edge of a shelf; it could shatter at any moment, so we must enjoy and relish it while it lasts. Because of my passion for the book, I was even able to convince my parents to read it. I consider this a feat because the only material they ever read is the newspaper. My mother is pure Armenian, while my father is only half. Needless to say, they were both moved deeply by the novel. They were extremely impressed by the courage and tenacity displayed by Vahan, and at times I would come into my mother’s bedroom to find her crying silently while reading the novel. I know that if I had been in Vahan’s position, I wouldn’t have been able to keep myself alive.
Unlike most of the works I’ve read, I will not forget this story. It made a big impact on my view of life, and its message has branded me permanently. In particular, the lessons of cherishing your family and loving one another will always stay with me. Every time I get upset with my mother, father, or sister, I think of Vahan’s family and how they would’ve given anything to get back to simpler times. I have also joined the Armenian Youth Federation in hopes of connecting with fellow Armenians. Since reading the book, I know that I will never give up in the fight for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.