NEW MILFORD, N.J.—The Hovnanian School and the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society of New Jersey recently co-hosted best-selling author Chris Bohjalian on the New Milford school campus. Shakeh Tashjian, principal of the school, welcomed the audience and introduced Ani Tchaglassian of Hamazkayin.
Tchaglassian spoke of her friend, saying, “He is one of the most humble and dedicated people I’ve ever met, not only writing his novels but also publishing many articles regarding the Armenian Genocide throughout the year.”
“I extend congratulations to the author, Hamazkayin, and Hovnanian School, especially Hovnanian School, because it is the only Armenian Day School in New Jersey,” said Rev. Father Hovnan Bozoian from Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church. “It is very special to us because this school is preparing our future generations and preserving our Armenian identity.”
Father Hovnan performed the traditional Kinetson (book blessing) ceremony by pouring red wine over a first edition of the novel. This is the fourth year in a row that Father Hovnan and the author have held a Kinetson ceremony in New Jersey.
In the powerful and moving lecture, Bohjalian shared personal anecdotes from the first leg of his book tour and a slideshow capturing his recent visit to Western Armenia. Identity—one of the major thematic threads throughout Bohjalian’s body of works—is what has bound The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and his Armenia visit together. Bohjalian talked about his family’s stories and personal eye-witness accounts from the genocide period. During his slideshow, he said that most of his relatives who survived “…took the many stories [of the genocide] to their grave.” That generation could not speak of the atrocities that they suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Turks—the very reason Bohjalian keeps coming back to the genocide in his work and underscores the importance of remembering his ancestors’ stories and preserving their identity. “It’s not the souls that are lost only, but also, their stories.”
Bohjalian then segued to his latest book, The Guest Room, “a spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong.” The meaning of family, relationships, moral struggles, and of the social crisis of human/sex trafficking prevalent in the world are at the core of the novel.
Bohjalian signed dozens of books following the presentation and spoke to his many fans. The Guest Room debuted at #11 on the New York Times best-seller’s list.