SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—”This book has now become part of my soul,” said Chris Bohjalian this week, at the book tour event in San Francisco for his latest novel, The Sandcastle Girls. “I know it’s the most important book I’ll ever write.”
The New York Times Best-Selling author addressed a packed audience at St. Gregory Armenian Church’s Vasbouragan Hall on July 17. The event was co-hosted by the Bay Area Armenian National Committee (ANC), the Genocide Education Project (GenEd), Hamazkayin, and Double Day Publishing. “The ANC is a force of nature,” said Bohjalian, who later added that recognition of the Armenian Genocide will come about eventually through art, film, and legislative action.
“We are honored to have Chris here to present ‘The Sandcastle Girls’ on the day of its release,” said Armen Carapetian, chairman of the Bay Area ANC. “’The Sandcastle Girls’ tells about the horrors of the Armenian Genocide to a mainstream audience that knows very little about this history.”
The novel has garnered critical acclaim from the Washington Post, USA Today, the Boston Globe, and others. The book has also received praise in People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. With strong sales and mass appeal, The Sandcastle Girls debuted—and remains—on the New York Times Best-Sellers list, in seventh place.
Bohjalian said that years ago, he wrote a manuscript for a book about the Armenian Genocide, but he wasn’t pleased with the results. He credits Khatchig Mouradian, editor of the Armenian Weekly, for encouraging and pressing him to try again. The book includes details and figures Bohjalian gathered from his own family’s history as well as many non-fiction accounts of the Armenian Genocide, including Mouradian’s research on the death marches Armenians suffered.
During the last two years of his father’s life, Bohjalian visited him in Florida once a month. It was during those visits that they would look at family photos and Bohjalian would ask his father about his childhood and his grandparents’ journeys as genocide survivors. For The Sandcastle Girls, which he called “historical detective fiction,” Bohjalian said he created a female version of himself for the main character. He said that while it is a fictional story, the historical details in the book are true.
Mouradian recently accompanied Bohjalian on a trip to Lebanon, where Bohjalian was moved to see the bones of Armenian Genocide victims in the killing fields of Der el Zor, Syria, as well as Bird’s Nest, the Armenian orphanage for children who survived. He also visited Anjar, Lebanon, where survivors of the Musa Dagh resistance against the Turks were brought and settled. There, he saw a mural, including a red flag with the words, “Let them come again. We are still the mountain.”
“It was a brilliant reference to the diaspora,” said Bohjalian. “Only 3 million of 10 million Armenians live in the nation state, but we’ve retained our churches, history, sense of self, and our pride in being a community.”
Of his trip to Armenia, Bohjalian said Mt. Ararat was shielded by clouds during his entire trip, but that on the day of his departure, the weather cleared and he finally saw the mountain. “In all its spectacular, monolithic grandeur, it was wishing me ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Welcome home’ at the same time. That’s when I knew that ‘The Sandcastle Girls’ was the most important book I would ever write.”
While in San Francisco, the Bay Area ANC hosted a luncheon for Bohjalian and members of community organizations to meet, including clergy from Bay Area Armenian churches, the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California, and GenEd. Bohjalian visited the Mt. Davidson Cross, which is maintained as a memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. After his enthralling evening presentation, Bohjalian diligently signed books for those in attendance.
During the nationwide book tour for The Sandcastle Girls, Bohjalian was also warmly received by audiences in Los Angeles, Calif., Watertown, Mass., Warwick, R.I., and Washington, D.C., where his Capitol Hill debut was co-hosted by Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution lead sponsors, Representatives Robert Dold (R-Ill.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Bohjalian met with Congressional members who received copies of The Sandcastle Girls as part of the ANCA’s effort to put the novel on the Congressional Summer reading list.
To help the ANCA purchase and distribute The Sandcastle Girls to legislators from our nation’s capital to state capitals and city halls, visit https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=b29104.