ACOM Book Club News for January

The ACOM Book Club met on January 19th in the St. Sahag Armenian Church fireside lounge. In attendance this month were Francis, Barb, Azad, Andrea, Tashina, Peter, Al and Leroy. We shared wine, cookies, a pear, a blueberry pie and many other treats. This month's book was "The Gardens of Silihdar" by Zabel Yessayan. (…/22612990-the-gardens-of-silihda…)

The first question was "How do you pronounce Silihdar?". Azad's opinion was "sē-lē-hah-dah-rē".
Peter said that he knows the woman who edited the edition of the book that he had.
Barb very much liked the book and was disappointed that the author wasn't able to complete the rest of her autobiography.
Someone asked what previous books the author had written. One that was tracked down was a story about the Hamidian massacre. ("In The Ruins: The 1909 Massacres of Armenians in Adana, Turkey" -…).
The author escaped the Armenian Massacre in the Ottoman Empire (she was going to be one of those arrested on April 24th), lived for a time in Paris, visited England, answered a call to teach in Soviet Yerevan, died in prison in Baku.
In Constantinople in 1880, Armenians weren't very oppressed, but in reading her description about her life it's obvious that there were many ways in which her life was constrained by the Armenian church, the Ottoman government, the Jannisaries and general social rules.
The group discussion turned to life in the Middle East in later years. In Aleppo, the Armenians tended to stay in their quarter of the city. The different cultures tended to stay together. This matched how Zabel described life in Constantinople.
We briefly discussed the fact that Zabel appeared to love her father and her uncle, the blacksmith. Both of them were more open in their ideas. That also applied to the one aunt that she liked, who was very compassionate. Zabel would get in trouble because she would defend poor kids who were being put down.
We had a brief discussion of the various dialects of the Armenian language. One person thought that Farsi seemed to be similar to Armenian, but others disagreed.
The discussion moved on to various comments about Armenian books. Someone pointed out that books written post-genocide have a darkness that didn't exist in pre-genocide books.
The way in which Zabel escaped the genocide is an example of how some Armenians were warned ahead of time that "things" were going to occur.
The general opinion of the group at the end of the evening was that this was a very good book.
Next month's book is "Bluebeard" by Kurt Vonnegut. Andrea has proposed "The Architect's Apprentice" by Elif Shafak as the selection for March.
We will have the next meeting on February 16th in the lounge at St. Sahag. I hope to see you all there.

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