Chris Bohjalian’s book, “The Sandcastle Girls.”
A prolific author
Altogether Bohjalian is the author of 18 books and his works have been translated into over 30 languages and made into movies on three occasions. His novel “Midwives” was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. His most recent novel, “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands,” was published in July 2014. His next novel, “The Guest Room,” is due out in January 2016 and has critical scenes set in Yerevan and Gyumri.
Since publishing “The Sandcastle Girls,” Bohjalian has been actively involved in educating people around the world about the Armenian Genocide through lectures, articles and public appearances, which led to his receiving the ANCA Freedom Award. He was also the recipient of the ANCA Arts and Letters Award and Russia’s Soglasie (Concord) Award for “The Sandcastle Girls,” as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashtots Medal, the New England Book Award and the Anahid Literary Award.
A native New Yorker, Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College and currently lives in Vermont with his wife, photographer Victoria Blewer. They have one daughter, Grace Experience, who is an actress in New York City.
Before 1915: the Genocide and Abdul Hamid
When most people think of the Armenian Genocide, they imagine a period in history that stretches roughly from April 24, 1915, when Armenian intellectuals were rounded up in Constantinople, taken by boat and train to concentration camps in Ayash and Chankiri and eventually gruesomely murdered, and ends in 1923 with the founding of the modern Republic of Turkey. But widespread massacres of Armenians — pogroms or “chart,” as they are referred to in Armenian — began long before that. From 1894 to 1896, for example, during the Hamidian Massacres alone some 300,000 Armenians were killed on the orders of Sultan Abdul Hamid, earning him the moniker “the Bloody Sultan.”
From Kayseri and Ankara: Two families, a horse stable and a troubadour tailor
Chris Bohjalian’s family history intersects with these terrible events in ways both sad and enlightening. The Bohjalian clan hails from Kayseri, a heavily Armenian city in Central Anatolia. While some of Bohjalian’s ancestors were successful merchants, others also had a decided flair for the literary. If you believe that literature is “in the bones” and that there is some type of literary DNA that gets passed on from one generation to the next, then Bohjalian may owe part of his success as a writer to an ancestor long gone – his great-grandfather Nazaret.