Saturday, February 22, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (this is similar to a holocaust novel...it's really intense and a lot of bad stuff happens.)
In 1915 Vahan Kenderian is living a life of privilege as the youngest son of a wealthy Armenian family in Turkey. This secure world is shattered when some family members are whisked away while others are murdered before his eyes.
Vahan loses his home and family, and is forced to live a life he would never have dreamed of in order to survive. Somehow Vahan’s incredible strength and spirit help him endure, even knowing that each day could be his last.
My Thoughts: Wow. This book is written as a fiction novel, but nearly everything that happens in it really did happen to someone, and the main character, Vahan, is the author's great-uncle. So don't think you're just reading a made-up story. It's largely a non-fiction book. Twenty years prior to the Jewish Holocaust that everyone knows about, was the Armenian genocide in Turkey. I had never ever heard of this, and after doing a little more research, I learned why. Turkey spent years denying that this genocide ever happened, and the US, in order to maintain a good relationship with Turkey, pretty much agreed not to make it public. Look up "1915 Armenian Genocide" on Google and you will learn tons. It was fascinating.
Basically, Armenians were Christians, and they lived in an Islamic country, Turkey. And in 1915, some new Turks took over the government and decided that Armenians were a threat to the country and must all be exterminated. So began a calculated genocide. It's estimated that half of the Armenian population in Turkey was murdered during this period. It was customary to shoot the oldest Armenian boys right in front of their families.
Vahan comes from a wealthy Armenian family, but within a matter of days, his father, two oldest brothers, and and older sister are all dead, and the rest of his family is on a death march. Vahan and another older brother manage to escape, but they eventually are separated, and Vahan has to survive based on only his own wit and strength. That he manages it is a miracle in and of itself. He meets some kind individuals who protect him, for seemingly no true reason.
I would recommend this book just as an education. Like I said, everyone knows about the Jewish Holocaust, but I had never heard of the Armenian one. Apparently, Hitler actually used the Armenian genocide as justification for what he was about to do to the Jews. At the beginning of the book there is a quote from Hitler, "Who does now remember the Armenians?" He figured that since no one really remembered what happened to the Armenian people, no one would remember the Jews either once he got rid of them. And that's why it's important to learn about the bad things that happened in our histories, so that they won't be repeated.