Join us on Wednesday, March 25 at 1:30 pm as we discuss “Orhan’s Inheritance” by Aline Ohanesian
On April 24 each year, Armenians commemorate the events that took place over 100 years ago, when the Ottoman Empire began forcibly deporting Armenians from their homeland, which lies within an area that is now Turkey. It was the beginning of a massacre that left more than one million Armenians dead. Armenians call it genocide; Turkey says the killing was not systematic, but part of widespread fighting at the time.
Aline Ohanesian tries to make sense of these events in her first novel, Orhan’s Inheritance. She says she was inspired by a story her grandmother told her, one hot summer day when she was no more than 9 years old. “My cousins and I were all watching The Sound of Music, and she called me into her bedroom and just told me that she needed to tell me something, that she had a story too.”
The story that Ohanesian heard that day was about her grandmother’s horrific experiences after Armenians were forced out of their homes in 1915. Her grandmother never talked about it to anyone else in the family — and never spoke about it again. Ohanesian always wondered why she alone was chosen to hear the story.
Many years later, as a mother of two and a graduate student in history, she started hearing her grandmother’s voice — and those thoughts became the beginning of the novel. Ohanesian did extensive research, poring over diaries and eyewitness accounts. But as much as she loves history, she says she also loves storytelling, and believes in the power of fiction to change the way people think. “There’s only about about 6 to 8 inches between an open book and a human being’s heart,” she says. “A lot can happen in those 7 inches. Perspectives, fresh perspectives occur and minds expand, and I love fiction and I feel like it’s a possibility for transformation.”