ACOM Book Club News - October 2017

Doves of Ohanavank CoverThe ACOM Book Club met on Thursday, October 19, 2017, in the St. Sahag Fireside Parlor. Attending this month were Andrea, Francis, Peter, Al and me. We shared a bottle of Muirwood cabernet with a wonderful apple salad which Andrea provided. This month's book was "The Doves of Ohanavank" by Vahan Zanoyan.

Andrea had not yet started reading it, but she wanted to attend to hear all of our opinions on it. This month was a bit odd in that Francis, Al and Peter had not finished reading the book, either. They weren't concerned about any discussion of parts of the book which they hadn't read yet, except that Francis and Peter did not want to hear what the "twist" was at the end of the story. Francis originally became aware of the book because the author is almost related. He is the cousin of a sister's husband, or something like that. The author spends half his time in Armenia so his comments on the area are told from real life experience. I mentioned that I had also read the preceding book "A Place Far Away" which tells the story of how the 16 year old Armenian girl, Lara, is enticed to leave her family to take a job as a model in Athens. Instead of being brought to Athens, however, she's brought to Moscow and forced to become a prostitute. She ends up being "purchased" by a rich man in Dubai and made a part of his personal harem. "Doves of Ohanavank" continues her story after she has escaped back to Armenia. We all thought that the story was well written. We enjoyed the descriptions (constant) of the beauty of the Armenian country. The book also doesn't hesitate to talk about the poverty in which the people in the small villages are living. It also doesn't hesitate to discuss the ever-present corruption in the country. Examples are that the people who are running the sex trafficking business in the country basically don't have to worry about being caught. Families can't object if their daughters are taken because they know that the police won't do anything about it. When Lara's brother starts raising pigs and it looks like he's going to be very successful, a rich Armenian drives him out of business by using his government connections to control prices. There was a brief discussion of why the journalist, Edik, continues to involve himself in Lara's family's life. He had a younger sister who was kidnapped when she was 12 and never found until two years later, dead from rape, beatings and malnutrition. Peter said that he was better able to understand the book by viewing it almost like a television mini-series. The book alternates chapters told from the points of view of Lara and other characters so he treated each of those switches as a step to a new episode. The book ties all of the episodes together to create the final story. The book takes place in multiple small villages scattered across Armenia. It appears that all of the villages that are mentioned are real places. We discussed the fact that Armenian religion isn't a part of the story at all. Even in Dubai, Lara's "owner", while required to be a Muslim, only practices enough of the faith to be acceptable socially. For next month's book there are two suggestions. Francis proposed that we read "My Grandmother: A Memoir" by Fethiye Cetin. This is a (true?) story of a young Turkish woman whose grandmother one day tells her that she isn't actually Turkish, she's Armenian and survived the genocide, which officially didn't happen. She asks her granddaughter to help her find relatives in America who also survived. Andrea suggested the book "Archeology of Madness: Komitas, Portrait of an Armenian Icon" by Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian. This tells the story of the mental problems that Komitas suffered from after surviving the initial arrests and murders at the start of the Armenian genocide while so many of his friends were killed. Let me know your opinions on which book (or another) that you would like to read for next month. We need to decide within the next week at the latest. I hope to see you next month. Leroy

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