It represents a dilemma that will be familiar to many Armenian-Americans born after the tumult that dislodged our parents and grandparents from their homeland.
My father, Nishan Kalajian, had the misfortune to be born in Diyarbakir, Turkey in 1912 at the core of the imploding Ottoman Empire. For him, the Armenian Genocide was not a distant, historic event but the defining reality of his life. He lost his mother, his home and everything familiar before being cast into the world alone.
I knew that much from an early age, but I desperately wanted to know more: How he survived, how he kept his wits and his faith, how he moved forward without being consumed by bitterness and hate. My father volunteered none of it. He dealt with his most painful memories in a most Armenian way, by pushing them aside.
My mother understood this better than anyone. She warned me never to ask him about such things and I never did, at least not directly. But every so often when an opportunity presented itself, I’d approach the topic obliquely and with great caution.
When he responded at all, my father often shared only a scrap or two before changing the subject or retreating to his books. It was left to me to figure out the importance of each scrap, and to connect it to whatever had come before or after. This is how my life-long conversation with my father continued, in fits and starts, yielding scattered pieces of a puzzle that I’m still trying to complete more than 20 years after his death.
As a writer, I felt compelled to tell as much of my father’s story as I could because I believe it holds important lessons. But I also wanted to tell my own story about growing up in the shadow of a great cataclysm with a father who would not talk about what he had experienced.
The book’s subtitle, Living With The Armenian Legacy of Loss and Silence, conveys my challenge in learning to appreciate a complex cultural inheritance that is rich and wondrous but also dark and painful to contemplate.
Most important, I wrote the book for my daughter and for her generation in hopes that they’ll figure out how to celebrate the best parts of that inheritance while finally vanquishing the pain.
Stories is my third book, and the first I’ve published independently. It's available in print and as a Kindle e-book. You won't find it at your local book shop but they can order it for you—or you can order one yourself through Amazon or other online book sellers.
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