A Literary Evening: Armenian Writers in New York

Join the Zohrab Information Center and the International Armenian Literary Alliance for an in-person literary evening on August 23, 2022 at 7:00 pm ET, to hear Armenian writers read from their short stories, novels, poetry and nonfiction.

Readers include Aida Zilelian, Alan Semerdjian, Garen Torikian, Jesse Arlen, Lola Koundakjian, Nadia Owusu, Nancy Agabian, Nancy Kricorian, and Olivia Katrandjian. A wine and cheese reception will follow. 

At Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016

Week 3 Readings for Tenny Arlen poetry reading group

The third session of the 5-week reading group around Tenny Arlen’s book of poetry To Say with Passion: Why Am I Here? (Կիրքով ըսելու՝ ինչո՞ւ հոս եմ) meets tonight by Zoom.

ZOOM REGISTRATION

In the first week, UCLA Western Armenian professor Dr. Hagop Kouloujian discussed Tenny Arlen’s linguistic and creative journey, from growing up with no Armenian knowledge until the age of 20 when she began an intensive study of Armenian language and literature at UCLA and soon after began composing original poetry of her own. The poems discussed in the first session touched on themes of creativity, language, the power of speech, and poetics. 

Last week the discussion was led by Dr. Jesse Arlen around a series of poems relating to themes such as solitude, speech and silence, the individual vs. the crowd, isolation and connection.

The discussion of this week’s readings will be led by Dr. Christopher Sheklian, a postdoctoral research fellow at Radboud University and the former director of the Zohrab Information Center.

Tonight’s readings:

Հայ լեզուի խնդիրը (էջ 19) | The Problem of the Armenian Language (p. 8)
Տեղատուութիւն եւ մակընթացութիւն (էջ 22–23) | Ebb and Flow (p. 10)
Մտմտալով (էջ 38–39) | Musing (p. 18)
Հին ու նոր (էջ 48–49) | Old and New (p. 24)
Լոյս (էջ 58–59) | Light (p. 29)
Յուշագրութիւններ (էջ 71–79) | Memoirs (p. 36–40)
Մեռելածին (էջ 82–88) | Stillborn (p. 43–46)

PDFs of the book are available in Armenian and English.

The book is available for purchase here or from Abril Bookstore.
Or, be in touch directly with Jesse Arlen to arrange payment and shipping (zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org)

Summer Poetry Reading Group: Tenny Arlen’s “To Say with Passion: Why Am I Here?”

The Zohrab Center is hosting a dual language summer reading group around Tenny Arlen’s newly published volume of poetry To Say With Passion: Why Am I Here? (Կիրքով ըսելու՝ ինչո՞ւ հոս եմ, Yerevan: ARI Literature Foundation, 2021), which will meet by Zoom on the five Thursday evenings between June 23–July 21 at 7:00pm ET. Each session will be led by a different facilitator, around a cluster of poems from the volume. Readings and discussion will take place in both Armenian and English. The schedule and reading list is below.

To register for all the Zoom sessions, please click here.

With no prior knowledge of Armenian, Tenny began taking Western Armenian classes in 2011 at UCLA with Prof. Hagop Kouloujian. Over the next two years, she began to compose her own poetry in the classes, and with Prof. Kouloujian’s assistance was preparing a book of verse, before her untimely death in a car accident in 2015 at age 24, just before beginning her doctoral program in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.

The posthumous book release event, which took place at UCLA on May 20th, can be viewed here. An article about the event can be read here.

The book is available for purchase here. Or, be in touch directly with Jesse Arlen to arrange payment and shipping (zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org)

PDFs of the book in Armenian and English translation are available below.

ZOOM REGISTRATION

Session 1: Thursday, June 23 with Prof. Hagop Kouloujian (Professor of Western Armenian Language and Literature, UCLA)
Reading List:
Յետգրութիւն այս գիրքի մասին (էջ 107–118) | Afterword about this book (p. 54–61)
Գիշեր (էջ 7) | Night (p. 1)
Բանաստեղծութիւն (էջ 8–9) | Poetry (p. 2)
Պատումը (էջ 10–11) | The Narration (p. 3)


Session 2: Thursday, June 30 with Dr. Jesse S. Arlen (Director, Zohrab Information Center; Postdoctoral Fellow, Fordham University)
Reading List:
Բառեր (էջ 12–13) | Words (p. 4–5)
Արծաթէ սանդուխը (էջ 14–15) | The Silver Staircase (p. 6)
Զարթնում (էջ 20–21) | Awaking (p. 9)
Մեծ քաղաքը (էջ 32–33) | The Big City (p. 15)
Մշուշ (էջ 36–37) | Mist (p. 17)
Երազ (էջ 56–57) | Dream (p. 28)
Պատուհան (էջ 62–63) | Window (p. 31)


Session 3: Thursday, July 7 with Dr. Christopher Sheklian (Postdoctoral Fellow, Radboud University)
Reading List:
Հայ լեզուի խնդիրը (էջ 19) | The Problem of the Armenian Language (p. 8)
Տեղատուութիւն եւ մակընթացութիւն (էջ 22–23) | Ebb and Flow (p. 10)
Մտմտալով (էջ 38–39) | Musing (p. 18)
Հին ու նոր (էջ 48–49) | Old and New (p. 24)
Լոյս (էջ 58–59) | Light (p. 29)
Յուշագրութիւններ (էջ 71–79) | Memoirs (p. 36–40)
Մեռելածին (էջ 82–88) | Stillborn (p. 43–46)


Session 4: Thursday, July 14 with Dn. Yervant Kutchukian (PhD Candidate, Oxford University)
Reading List:
Անվերջ սկիզբ (էջ 18) | Endless Beginning (p. 8)
Գիշեր (էջ 24–25) | Night (p. 11)
Գնացք (էջ 26–27) | Journey (p. 12)
Լուսանկարներ (էջ 30–31) | Photographs (p. 14)
Ըսել (էջ 40–42) | To say (p. 19)
Հիւանդանոց (էջ 43) | Hospital (p. 20)
Մինչեւ (էջ 44) | Until (p. 21)
Լուսանցք (էջ 64–65) | Margin (p. 32)
Աստ անդ (էջ 68–70) | Here there (p. 34–35)


Session 5: Thursday, July 21 with Alexia Hatun (PhD Student, UCLA)
Reading List:
Միտքս (էջ 16–17) | My Mind (p. 7)
Ես ու ես (էջ 28–29) I and I (p. 13)
Մենք (էջ 34) We (p. 16)
Անաւարտ (էջ 45) | Unfinished (p. 22)
Եղար (էջ 46–47) | You were (p. 23)
Կարապներ (էջ 50–53) | Swans (p. 25–26)
Ծաղիկ (էջ 54–55) | Flower (p. 27)
Երկուք (էջ 66–67) | Two (p. 33)
Գեղեցկութիւն (էջ 80–81) | Beauty (p. 41–42)

Sonia Tashjian’s personal library finds a home at the Zohrab Information Center

Sonia Tashjian (née Ekizian) was born in Jounieh, Lebanon in 1929 to parents Hampartzoum and Haigouhi (née Karagosian) Ekizian who hailed from Chomachlou and Yozgat, Turkey, respectively.  Her father had emigrated to New York prior to World War I to earn money for his family.  Her mother survived the Armenian Genocide by walking in constant peril through the Syrian desert before reaching a refugee camp in Aleppo, Syria, where Hampartzoum had rescued his two surviving children, Garabed and Turvandah.  He married Haigouhi and together they had four children, Margaret, Youghaper, Sonia, and Hagop.  

Sonia Tashjian (middle back) with her father, mother, and three siblings

Sonia emigrated to New York in 1937 at the age of eight with her parents and siblings.  She graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, NY.  She married Martin Sonny Tashjian, in 1951, shortly before Sonny was deployed to Korea.  They had four sons: Douglas, Glenn, Craig, and Roger.  Sonny died in 1981 from Leukemia.  With her well known strong will and determination, Sonia re-entered the workforce and still managed to send her two youngest sons to Lehigh University.  

Sonia Tashjian in 1950

Sonny and Sonia were among the founding families of St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly, NJ.  She later became an active member of St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, where she was a member of the women’s guild for 30 years.  Sonia’s faith in God and never-give-up spirit got her through several illnesses, including her final battle with COVID-19 and its aftermath.  She died peacefully on the morning of July 29th, 2020.   

Sonia Tashjian later in life

Sonia was an exceptional bibliophile, as evidenced by her collection of over a hundred Armenian-related books that were donated by her son Douglas to the Zohrab Information Center in 2021.  Several titles were original contributions to the Center’s library, e.g., The Adventures of Wesley Jackson by William Saroyan, and Source Records of the Great War, Volume III (an anthology of official documents for the year 1915, with a chapter dedicated to the Armenian Genocide).  

Title page of The Adventures of Wesley Jackson by William Saroyan, from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

Many other titles were in better condition than the Center’s copies, such as George M. Mardikian’s autobiography, Song of America, which also included the original 1956 dust jacket.  

Front cover of Song of America by George Mardikian, from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

Others were earlier editions than books in the Center’s collection, such as the two-volume travelogue Armenia: Travels and Studies by H. F. B. Lynch. Sonia had the first edition from 1901, while the Center had previously only held later editions.  

Front cover of Armenia: Travels and Studies, vol. 1 by H. F. B. Lynch from the Sonia Tashjian Collection
Title page of Armenia: Travels and Studies, vol. 2 by H. F. B. Lynch from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

One of the most intriguing dimensions of Sonia’s collection was the compilation of book-related ephemera: book catalogues of bygone decades, correspondence, and order receipts with Armenian book dealers spanning from 1961-1982, notably seller Mark Armen Kalustian in Arlington, Massachusetts, with whom Sonia exchanged extensive correspondence and was a loyal customer of many years.  

Sonia Tashjian correspondence with bookseller Mark Kalustian
Sonia Tashjian correspondence with bookseller Mark Kalustian
Bookseller Mark Kalustian order form and correspondence with Sonia Tashjian
Bookseller Mark Kalustian order form and correspondence with Sonia Tashjian

Sonia’s collection, both the books and the ephemera, are a magnificent testament not only to the strength of life pulsating through the 20th century Armenian-American community, but also to the love and care of one extraordinary woman toward that community and its literary heritage. Her personal library of Armenian books, collected over a lifetime, has now found a permanent home in the Zohrab Information Center’s research library. 

Buy a book for the Zohrab Center Library this Library Appreciation Week

This week, April 3–9, 2022, marks National Library Appreciation Week.

A private collection relying entirely on donations to develop its holdings since its inception in 1987, the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center library has over the years become one of the premier collections of Armenian material in the Western Hemisphere.

Open to the public, patrons may search the collection via its online catalog and come in person to use the collection.

This week, during library appreciation week, we invite you to help us expand our holdings of recent books published in Armenian studies by buying a book (or two or three!) to add to our library.

We have compiled a wish list of books on Amazon.

Ship to:
Jesse Arlen
Zohrab Information Center
630 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10016

Let us know how you would like your donation to be noted on the book and in our catalog:

option 1: “Donated by NAME”
option 2: “Donated by NAME in memory of NAME”

Note: After you purchase the book it will automatically be removed from the list, so as to avoid duplicate purchases from multiple donors.

If you would like to purchase a book from an Armenian bookseller, such as NAASR bookstore or Abril Bookstore, then please email us to let us know what book you purchased and we will remove it from the wish list.

You may reach us at: zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org

Dr. Jesse Arlen to speak on “The History of the Armenian Bible” at Museum of the Bible’s “Armenian Culture Celebration”

On Saturday, January 29, 2022, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. will host an Armenian Culture Celebration with special exhibits (including a digital exhibition on the churches of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh) and other activities, musical performances, Armenian cuisine, and lecture presentations devoted to the role of the Bible and Christianity in Armenian culture.

Dr. Jesse Arlen will be one of the speakers, presenting on the development of the Armenian Bible and its sacred importance that enabled the spread of Christianity, the development of Armenian theology, and the survival of a distinct, unified cultural identity.

Click here for details of the full-day event and see below for a schedule including a coupon code for free admission to the museum.

The lecture presentations will also be available to stream by Zoom. See below for links to join the Zoom presentations:

Lunch & Learn: Christmas Traditions in Armenia (11:00am ET)

Click the link to join the webinar: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83820349313 
Webinar ID: 838 2034 9313

The History of the Armenian Bible (3:00pm ET)

Please click the link to join the webinar: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83545912455
Webinar ID: 835 4591 2455

“The Materiality of Armenian Christianity: Gospel Books as Sacred Objects” — Zoom Lecture by Konrad Siekierski — Wed, Jan 26 at 7:00pm ET

On Wednesday, January 26th, at 7:00pm ET, Konrad Siekierski, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College London will deliver a lecture entitled “The Materiality of Armenian Christianity: Gospel Books as Sacred Objects.”

This Zoom Webinar is jointly sponsored by the The Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, & The Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center.

To register for the Webinar, please visit: https://bit.ly/NAASRSiekierski

The Materiality of Armenian Christianity: Gospel Books as Sacred Objects

Armenian Gospel Books do not only contain the Word of God to be read by priests and the faithful, but some also act as sacred objects endowed with supernatural power and agency. As such, they are venerated during the feasts of the Armenian Apostolic Church and as ‘home saints’ – family relics held in unofficial shrines. Based on several years of ethnographic research in Armenia and recent anthropological literature on religion as a sensual and material phenomenon, I will discuss how Gospel Books (and some other religious texts) make visible the invisible, touchable the untouchable, and – ultimately – reachable the unreachable for Armenian Christians today. Furthermore, I will explore the Armenian veneration of home saints in the context of Soviet and post-Soviet Armenia’s changing socio-political landscape, the decay of traditional village life in the country, and the theft of many privately owned Gospel Books.

Konrad Siekierski is a PhD candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London. Based upon ten years of ethnographic research, his doctoral thesis, A Vow to Go: Religion, Reunion, and Roots in Armenian Pilgrimage, examines the different forms that pilgrimage takes today in the Armenian culture. In 2021, he conducted a research project Gospel Books as Home Saints: Between Vernacular Christianity and Armenian National Heritage, funded by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research. Currently he is a recipient of The Orthodox Christian Studies NEH Dissertation Completion Fellowship at Fordham University. Konrad edited two collective volumes and authored several articles in academic journals.

Separated by the Fate of Genocide: A Father’s Struggle Abroad

By Emily Ekshian

My Story tells an intricate, biographical account of Hagop Vartanian’s struggle supporting his family during the Armenian Genocide from abroad. His story encompasses a journey across continents. It follows Vartanian’s early days before World War I and his later life in the United States. He details the heartrending realities that took place during the Armenian Genocide. The core of Vartanian’s experience is captured in his years living in the United States, though the Armenian Genocide, and the events ensuing in the chaotic aftermath, play an important role in shaping him as a father and the responsibilities that were inviolable.

The memoir is exclusively written as a first person narrative, detailing Vartanian’s origins in Northeastern, Turkey. Vartanian was born in the village of Adish, located in the Turkish Armenian vilayet (province) of Diarbekir. Residing amid the serene town, his family enjoyed a relatively stable life. He and his wife, Yeghisapet, had six children. Four were boys; Garabed, his oldest child, Levon, Vartan, and Vahak, his youngest child. They also had two daughters, Hripsime and Azniv. 

Armenia’s greatest river, the Euphrates, passed three miles from the village, and Vartanian alludes to the tens of thousands of Armenian corpses lying at the mouth of the river. The 1911 – 1918 wars in the region left the Armenians in the hands of the ruthless Turkish enemy.

Adish’s gardens and vineyards were not sufficient to provide livelihood for the village’s fifteen hundred inhabitants. Often, many were obliged to work in Istanbul or abroad, and then return to their homes to spend time with their families.

Vartanian says that circumstances took a turn with the onset of World War I, prompting the Armenian Genocide. With the support of the German allyship, the Turkish government implemented a set of policies that eventually guided the systematic destruction of Armenian identity in the Ottoman Empire, and the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians who were living in the region. The Armenian Genocide is officially the world’s first documented Genocide, and the first Genocide of the 20st century. The Genocide involved death marches through the Syrian Desert and the forced islamization of Armenian women and children— a few among many heinous strategies perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks.

At the start of the Genocide, Vartanian was confronted with a difficult decision. For the benefit of their families, many Armenian men would immigrate to surrounding countries and cities to earn a living. In many cases, men moved to Istanbul, Europe, the Middle East, and in other cases, some, like Hagop Vartanian, would make the long voyage to the United States. Vartanian documents the path that led him to Chicago, and the frustration he met while supporting his family in war-torn Armenia.

On August 7, 1909 Vartanian’s ship finally dropped anchor in the harbor of New York City. Leaving the city of Mezre, Turkey, a month previously, Vartanian eventually settled in the American city of Chicago. He lived there until he went back to the ‘fatherland’, about nine years later, in the summer of 1919. During his time in Chicago, Vartanian was able to secure a stable job at Griess Pfleeger Tanning Co. with a weekly pay range averaging about $25. 

Through his chronicles, Vartanian conveys his anguish to the reader, as he learns of the atrocities being carried out in his homeland. In 1914, while the European World Wars began, he said “sadness seized me, for I saw that while the great powers were occupied with the wars, Turkey would have a favorable opportunity to masacre and annihilate the Armenians.” He later shares that he regrets not immigrating his eldest son, Garabed, to the United States. He wanted his son to focus on his studies instead of labor, yet now his fate seemed to be in the hands of the Turks. Vartanian became increasingly concerned with the advancement of the World Wars in 1915.

A month later, reports of massacres and hangings reached the United States. Those reports included details of Turkish mandates deporting all Armenians to Mesopotamia. In September of 1915, even more devastating news had reached Chicago – an increase in massacres, famine, deportations and rape across the Armenian territories.

Several months later, Vartanian found that those Armenians who were in the region of Adish were deported, and by the end of 1916, the American Consul in Aleppo, Syria notified Vartanian that his wife and four children were alive, and in great need of money. However, that news worried Vartanian because he had six children. He pondered that the two missing were his eldest boys Garabed and Levon. The American Consul had informed Vartanian that Garabed was separated from his mother in Malatia.

On 6 June 1917, Vartanian received a postcard from his wife from Aleppo, who had listed the names of the four children and saying that they were alive and unharmed. That is when Vartanain noticed that Garabed and Azniv, his eldest son and youngest daughter’s names had not been included on the postcard. He knew that they were lost. Azniv was abducted by the Turks when the family reached Ourfa. A year and a half later she escaped and reached her mother in Aleppo. Hripsime, his eldest daughter, became ill amid the destitution and subsequently died a month after Azniv arrived to her family. 

Two years later, he received a family picture of his four surviving children and Yeghisapet, his wife. In the picture, it was apparent that his wife was sick as her bones were defined, to which Vartanian concluded that she was dying. Azniv wrote to her father, making it clear that her mother’s illness was indeed serious. 

Vartanian decided to leave the United States very quickly to see his sick wife. After nine years in Chicago, Vartanian departed on July 26 1919 to Detroit. Despite his effort to obtain a visa to leave New York through Greece and Smyrna, circumstances of the world wars had tightened the opportunities for travel.

On August 15, 1919, the bitter notice of death appeared in the mail, his wife’s passing. Consequently, his children were then put in an orphanage in Aleppo, and he delayed his travel plans to see them.

A year later, thanks to the conclusion of the world wars, Vartanain was able to travel aboard the ship that would reach Le Havre, France. On May 28, 1920, Vartanian was at last reunited with his children in Aleppo. Eventually, Vartanian and his four children moved to the United States, where they took up residence in Chicago.

Grappling with the historical context of the time, the memoir explores the economic and socio-political realities Vartanian, along with thousands of other Armenian men abroad supporting their families back home, had experienced during the Genocide.

Vartanian presents a unique experience within the constructs of the Genocide – he witnesses familial loss and his homeland’s destruction, while travel restrictions render him incapable of seeing them. Today, the majority of Adish’s population is to be found in the United States, as a result of the destructive anti-Armenian policies and extermination agenda of the nascent Turkish state. During the Genocide, his wife and eldest daughter became ill and died, and his eldest son was killed.

The beautiful account takes the reader along Vartanian’s journey moving to the United States, exploring a father’s responsibility to support his family. The cycle of the anguish he dealt with while not being able to help his family members survive was later resolved in part when he reunified with those that did.

Dr. Roberta Ervine translated Hagop Vartanians story from the original diary manuscript. She holds her PhD from Columbia University. Her dissertation research led her to Jerusalem, where she lived in the Armenian Monastery of St. James as a disciple of His Grace Abp. Norayr Bogharian, curator of manuscripts. In 2001, she returned to the United States to teach at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, where she lectures on topics related to the history of Armenian Christianity and Armenian Christian thought. 

This account is among many gencoide survivor stories available to read at the Zohrab Information Center, which readers and the interested public are encouraged to visit. The center is open Monday through Friday by appointment. The book can be found here:
Zohrab catalog: https://dac.kohalibrary.com/app/work/10067

Emily Ekshian is a master’s student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her concentrations include international and investigative reporting. Emily is also an intern at the Zohrab Information Center, where she seeks to explore the unique experiences of Armenian Genocide survivors.

Dec. 2nd Book Release with Shahé Mankerian has been postponed to early 2022

Unfortunately, we will have to postpone tomorrow’s scheduled event — the book release of Shahé Mankerian’s History of Forgetfulness. Shahé is the principal of St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian School in Pasadena, California, and learned today that he had close exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. So, he is not coming to NY and we are going to reschedule the event in early 2022, date TBA. We share in your disappointment and will be in touch with a rescheduled date.