((("You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men" quote from Bible)))
On September 21 when Armenia marks its 19th anniversary of independence, a young Armenian-American writer Garin K. Hovannisian will release his debut memoir "Family of Shadows: A Century of Murder, Memory, and the Armenian American Dream" in New York.
Hovannisian, 24 tells the searing history of Armenia, witnessed and realized through three generations of the Hovannisian family, a story where his great grandfather Kaspar survived the Armenian Genocide at the beginning of the 20th century and started a new life in the US.
Kaspar's grandson tells how he follows the American Dream to the San Joaquin Valley of California never forgetting his homeland. Then Kaspar's son Richard leaves the family farm and eventually helps pioneer the field of Armenian studies in the United States and becomes a world authority on genocide. Kaspars grandson Raffi (now the leader of Heritage opposition party) is also haunted by the past, and in 1989 he leaves his law firm in Los Angeles to stage the original act of repatriation to Soviet Armenia, where he goes on to play a historic role in the creation of a new and independent republic becoming Armenia's first foreign minister.
Hovannisian-a recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing and the Lynton Award for Book Writing and a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, who now lives in Los Angeles and Yerevan, says he always knew he would write this book.
It wasn't a matter of choice --but a matter of courage, more probably arrogance. I had to convince myself that I was ready for such an epic, complex undertaking. And then I was ready," Hovannisian tells ArmeniaNow.
He says writing the book was difficult for him by all accounts because he never met his great-grandfather Kaspar and he had to reconstruct his life from the thousands of details collected from interviews, archives, libraries of the world.
"My grandfather Richard's story was difficult because I never really did understand the man--how an English-speaking boy on a California farm should have the audacity and the imagination to leave his father's world to pioneer Armenian studies in the United States," Hovannisian says.
But the most difficult was the story of his father Raffi but for the opposite reason.
"I felt I knew him too well. Sometimes when I was writing I could not tell whether I was writing about him or me. It was the strangest feeling".
The title of the book was inspired from the Bible where Hovannisian read --"You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men" -- and from that line a whole symbolism, search, and mythology erupted.
"Garin Hovannisian tells one of modern historys great unexamined stories. Whether you are an Armenian American like me or come to this story anew, Family of Shadows will move you with the intensity and intimacy of its detail. The Hovannisian family lived the story of the extinction and resurrection of the Armenian nation, and we are lucky that Garin Hovannisian has put it all down on paper so that the world can understand" David Ignatius, columnist for The Washington Post and author of Body of Lies writes.
Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York and author of The Road to Home: My Life and Times writes. "Weaving together history, culture, and original reporting, Family of Shadows is an inspired tribute, full of passion and appreciation for the genealogy of the Hovannisian family and its transformation into an American success story."
Hovannisian often visits Armenia where his parents live and thinks Armenia is a wonderful place to write, especially in the fall.
He says all his family members have already read the book but he hears very little from them except for his mother who is unrepentant in her pride.
"They are careful not to spoil me with their flattery -- or burden me with their criticism -- and I am happy not to know which it is."
The young author is planning to translate the novel into Armenian in the nearest future.