That means, I am Armenian. My grandparents arrived here from Armenia to escape the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey. I'm also part Italian--but that's not important right now. When I was a child, it felt very peculiar to be Armenian. When kids asked me what nationality I was (and they seemed to do that a lot during my elementary school days), I shrugged or became mute. I dreaded these inquiries, and wouldn't tell them I was Armenian. Even worse, though, was attending Armenian school, which was held on Saturday mornings. The school was within walking distance, and as I trudged back home after class with my sisters, Armenian textbooks in our arms, I was afraid I'd see someone I knew. If friends were outside they'd notice the books, with their strange letters from a different alphabet, and ask questions. I did not want to be seen with these books, this evidence of my otherness. It was sheer torture to me. When we stopped going to Armenian school I was relieved, although I still continued to hide my heritage from others.
As I grew up, I learned to accept my heritage and in fact, became glad that I am part Armenian. Nancy Kricorian is a poet as well as an author of fiction who's also of Armenian descent. A poet first and foremost, her inspiration for her first novel, Zabelle, published in 1998, was to write for a larger audience, and to record some of the many memories and stories she had of her grandmother. Further inspiration came from Sula by Toni Morrison, and My Name is Aram by another Armenian author, William Saroyan.
Nancy Kricorian is a wonderful storyteller, and this book will enchant you from the first page until the very last. Based on the life of her grandmother, Zabelle is the fictional story of Kricorian's grandmother (and many other Armenians) who escaped the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey and made a new life in America. In the story, Zabelle Chahasbanian emigrates to America in an arranged marriage to an Armenian grocer, Toros, in Watertown, MA. Her mother-in-law is mean and domineering, but Zabelle learns to stand her ground. She has three children, Moses, Jack, and Joy, who face cultural conflicts as second-generation Armenians growing up in America. This book paints an intimate portrait of Zabelle and her family, and is both touching and comical, like all good drama.
Even if you are not Armenian but odar you will enjoy this very entertaining book. It's written with passion and captures your attention, completely, regardless of your nationality.