The Armenian Weekly
January 2010 Magazine
In celebration of the Armenian Weekly’s 75th anniversary, we asked our columnists to recount their column’s genesis story.
I’m not sure, but I think it was the year 2007. I had received an email from Khatchig Mouradian, whom I knew only by name from the Armworkshop email group, telling us about his short encounter with an elderly lady in Beirut during a meeting on the Armenian Genocide. Khatchig had quoted a passage from one of my writings, on my feelings about the April 24th anniversary. I had written that the great loss in 1915 had left behind a barren land that was once the cradle of a great culture; how all the attempts at economic and social development (the roads, electricity, water supplies, and dams) over the decades in what was once the old Armenia all failed to bring even a quarter of the vibrant civilization the Armenians had created before 1915.
Khatchig wrote to me how, after his presentation where he had quoted my words, an elderly Armenian lady approached him and asked, “Tell me, what was the name of that woman who wrote those words?” When Khatchig told her my name and asked why she asked, she told him, “I will pray for her tonight.” What Khatchig wrote to me brought tears to my eyes and a very real, almost tangible bond was established between that lady and I—a lady who prayed for me.
I communicated with Khatchig from time to time.And one day he invited me to write a column for the Armenian Weekly. I looked at the internet version of the newspaper and saw that it was a publication of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Tashnagtsutiun, which was known in Turkey as a party of rabid haters of Turks and an eternal enemy of Turkey as a whole. Despite the strong urge in me to say yes, I hesitated, thinking of the possible repercussions in Turkey. Imagine me, writing for a Tashnag publication. Then I thought of Khatchig, how he had valued my words, had shared them with his people. The words of an ethnic Turk and Muslim by birth. And I thought of the elderly lady who had prayed for me, a Turkish woman from Turkey. I believed in them, in Khatchig and his audience. So I said that I would be happy to write for the Weekly. As for the “haters of Turks” attributed to the Tashnag prototype, after all, “hatred,” much like “affection,” is not without reason. It’s up to us in Turkey to build, brick by brick, reasons for forgiveness for the unforgivable, unimaginable, and irreversible human catastrophe that was carried out in a country where we continue to live and prosper, in the absence of its Armenian children.
Twenty years ago, when Antranig Kasbarian was the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly, I proposed to him an idea for a limited column of short articles and anecdotes, mostly humorous, for the Weekly. He didn’t think much of the idea. I decided to appeal to the editor, Mimi Parseghian, and she thought it was a great idea. I submitted enough material for several columns, but just imagine my consternation when she used it all in one issue.
Now I had to decide whether or not I was going to be able to continue for the long haul. So I labored week by week and, of course, weeks became months, and months became years. And this is how “Uncle Garabed’s Notebook” came to be. I am indebted to the editors of the Weekly for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the paper in some small way.
What started out as a reflective piece back in 1970 turned into a staple reflecting my life in journalism. I had written about the absence of humor in the press and that with all the doom and gloom in the world, readers needed a little levity in their lives. They needed a personal touch, stories about everyday trials and tribulations that could be identifiable, whether it was a family crisis, romantic interlude, or rigmaroles inside the workplace. My editor at the Hairenik Weekly—Jimmy Tashjian—got such a smile out of it that he suggested we turn it into a regular series. And that is how “Poor Tom’s Almanac” got its start—and is still going strong today on its 40th anniversary.
BETTY APIGIAN KESSEL
Creative writing was always my forte in school. I realized I had a great love for vocabulary, both English and Armenian. I started first as a young AYFer sending in brief articles. Every organization I joined eventually made me its secretary and I began submitting articles on our activities. One such group was the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild. To my joy, I was being printed. Editor Mimi Parseghian approached me about doing a regular column and “Hye Beat” was born, but I refuse to limit myself to Michigan. After a work required hiatus, my longtime mentor James Tashjian kept urging me to resume writing. I happily did so six years ago. People ask me how I crank out a column each week. It seems I have a lot to say. I have a strong background in the Armenian lifestyle since I grew up in a family with close ties to both the Pontiac and Detroit communities.
Writing is a wonderful creative outlet for me. It agrees with my independent nature. I am a people person but one who likes flying solo, in other words, just me and the computer together. My purpose is to be objective. I especially want to write about those who otherwise would not get noticed and when time allows, to bridge the Detroit area Armenian community into my column. I have been around long enough to realize there is strength in unity and it must come to be. I want to do as much as I can to contribute to that endeavor. Ultimately, I write because of the injustice of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Cause must not die.
When I was hired as editor of the California Courier in 1983, the publisher asked me to write a column every week, regardless of whether I was too tired, sick, or out of town, not skipping a single week! I did not know what to write at first. But, 26 years and 1,300 columns later, I have not run out things to say. The Armenian Weekly started publishing my columns around 20 years ago. Amazingly, my columns are now reprinted in more than a dozen publications in several countries, translated into Armenian, Arabic, French, Russian, etc., and posted on countless non-Armenian websites worldwide.
The Weekly editor’s request for a blurb about “how my column got started” elicited a sense of writing the stereotypical school year-beginning’s “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” essay. Every kid has the sense of not having done anything and ending up with some pathetic description of mundane doings. This scribble is equally pathetic. There’s no there, there. I used to write for the Weekly sporadically in the 1980’s. Then, when I moved to the LA area, I should have continued with Asbarez. But after one article and a Letter to the Editor that got printed as an “op-ed,” I stopped. The closest thing to a “reason” for that cessation was my decision to write everything bilingually. That meant more time per piece, and I never found that much time. Along came the evil TARC machinations of the State Department, Armenian Assembly, and Turkey, and, I erupted. But it still took another year to begin writing regularly, and that was in October 2003. First I was submitting to Asbarez, soon thereafter expanding to the Weekly.
That’s it, bland but true.
HENRY D. ASTARJIAN, M.D.
Armenia’s independence and Levon Ter Petrossian’s ascendance to the presidency prompted me to assume the role of a loyal opposition member. That was politically incorrect for some segments of the Armenian Diaspora, who were grateful for having a piece of land called Armenia. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad. I was of the opinion that the newborn had congenital deformities, needing to be corrected.
Some English-language Armenian newspapers published my articles after subjecting them to censorship; The practice gave me indigestion, so after a handful issues, I decided to quit and came to The Armenian weekly. The column was born with Tatul Sonentz being the “Midwife” and Vahe Habeshian (the editor at the time) the “Godfather.” He christened it “Loud and Clear.” The writings were so caustic and critical of Petrossian that the government of Armenia included me, seventh from the top, in a “List of 31” who were not allowed to enter Armenia. I did not attempt!
I did not blame Petrossian for his outrage, because I had called him “son of a Turk” and had said “Amot kezi Baron Nakhakah” for his participation in the funeral of Turgut Ozal, the president of Turkey, on our most sacred day, April 24.After a few years of writing, I decided to practice what I preached—that one has to know when to get on stage and when to get off. So it was time for me to get off.
When the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Committee (TARC) was surreptitiously and sneakily created, it was time to write again—this time with 14 articles, all devoted to the issue. Now, with this colossal threat to the Armenian nation by the Armenian-Turkish protocols, it was time to get on stage again. It is time to mobilize all our resources and fight with all our might to oppose, forcefully, this fatal plot against our nation. It’s good to be back, and for that I am grateful to the Weekly.
As a Canadian Armenian, my first exposure to the Armenian Weekly was during my years as a camper and staff member at Camp Haiastan. I remember the excitement when the newspaper with the camp supplement in it was delivered fresh off the press to that stretch of Armenian woods in Franklin, Mass. The Armenian Weekly generously published our teenage camp anecdotes, thoughts, and feelings imbued with carefree nostalgia, while informing us of what was going on in the Armenian world outside the cabin circle.
Many years after camp, I was contacted by the current editor of the Armenian Weekly, Khatchig Mouradian, who asked if I would be interested in joining the Weekly family as a columnist. His invitation followed the publication of an article he requested I write for the Weekly; it was a short piece presenting my book Collective Memory and Home in the Diaspora: The Armenian Community in Montreal, which had just been published in Germany. Originally written as my master’s thesis, the monograph examines notions of home and collective memory existing in the diaspora, particularly articulated through Armenian community centers. It was shortly after the publication of that article that the editor extended the unanticipated invitation to join in as a columnist. He described my contribution as the voice of a young Armenian who writes about diasporan issues. After a rather entertaining email exchange, during which various ideas for titles were thrown about, the editor shortlisted my proposed list of titles down to three, one of which was “Scattered Beads.” Working with this malleable and apt metaphor to describe our collective condition as diasporans has been an enriching challenge and fulfilling experience so far. I am truly honored to be part of such a long-standing, respected, and thriving diasporic media institution such as the Armenian Weekly. I want to thank Khatchig Mouradian and the Weekly team for taking a chance and believing in young minds and new perspectives. Your vision has allowed me, along with others, to share our voice and scattered realities.