(Re)Membering: Armenian Writers Against Commemoration

April traditionally marks the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. With the recent ethnic cleansing of Artsakh Armenians in September 2023 repeating a pattern of genocide, these Armenian writers, with roots stretching across Los Angeles, New England, Beirut, Artsakh and Armenia, will reframe remembering, reading works that “member” the audience – to welcome, honor and include every listener. They will celebrate current connections and diversity while resisting genocide and advocating for the most vulnerable. Featuring Nancy Agabian, Raffi Joe Wartanian, Carene Rose Mekertichyan and Gina Alexandra Srmabekian, the program will be hosted by Arthur Kayzakian and Tanya Kossian of the Los Angeles IALA chapter, who will facilitate a Q&A.

The program is co-sponsored by Beyond Baroque, one of the United States’ leading independent Literary/Arts Centers and public spaces dedicated to expanding the public’s knowledge of poetry, literature and art through cultural events and community interaction. It is also co-sponsored by The International Armenian Literary Alliance, an organization that supports and celebrates writers by fostering the development and distribution of Armenian literature in the English language.

Doors open at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center on Saturday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m. with readings beginning at 7 p.m. Pacific time. The event will also be livestreamed on Beyond Baroque’s YouTube channel. Register here.

About the Authors

Nancy Agabian is a writer, teacher and literary organizer who works in the intersections of queer, feminist and Armenian American identity. She is the author of The Fear of Large and Small Nations, a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, recently published by Nauset Press. Her previous books include Princess Freak (Beyond Baroque Books), a collection of poetry and performance art texts, and Me as her again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter (Aunt Lute Books), a memoir honored as a Lambda Literary Award finalist for LGBT Nonfiction and shortlisted for a William Saroyan International Prize. In 2021 she was awarded Lambda Literary Foundation’s Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction. A longtime writing professor at several universities, she has also led creative writing workshops in community settings, including at Beyond Baroque from 1994 to 1999. She currently serves on the board of the International Armenian Literary Alliance.

Raffi Joe Wartanian is a writer, musician and educator who teaches writing at UCLA and serves as the inaugural Poet Laureate in the city of Glendale, California. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, University of Texas Press, No Dear Magazine and elsewhere. As a musician, Raffi has released two albums of original compositions: Critical Distance (2019) and Pushkin Street (2013).

Carene Rose Mekertichyan is an artist, organizer, educator and proud Angelena. As a Black Armenian woman, she is drawn to storytelling that centers marginalized narratives and believes true art exists to create empathy and social change. Her identity and upbringing in Los Angeles inform both her art and intersectional activism. She has guest lectured and facilitated programming at USC, UCLA, PCC, Pomona College and Boston College and is currently a teaching artist with CTG, Creative Acts and About Productions. She serves as the artistic associate for social justice at Independent Shakespeare Co., program coordinator at Support Black Theatre, and is co-author of the LA Anti-Racist Theatre Standards and a Blklst contributor. In 2021 she was selected as an Arts for LA Activate delegate. She has performed with numerous theater companies, and her plays and spoken word have been produced at Edinburgh Fringe, MeetCute LA, Company of Angels, Independent Shakespeare Co. and “We the People Theater Action.” She is also an essayist, with work published by University of Texas Press, LAist, The Armenian Weekly, HyeBred Magazine and Kooyrigs. She is cofounder of Yerazad, an organization centered on coalition building and transnational solidarity. She received her training from Dartmouth College and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).

Gina Alexandra Srmabekian is a writer whose work grapples with transgenerational trauma, memory and identity. She writes toward her own freedom and toward the freedom of all displaced peoples from Artsakh to Palestine and beyond. She writes about grief and in times of grief, because it is the most powerful articulation of love. She is the winner of Ninth Letter’s 2023 Literary Award for Creative Non-fiction and was a 2024 Words of Witness Fellow at Under the Volcano in Tepoztlán. She is a lecturer at California State University, Northridge and lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Bailey.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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