At this point it would be redundant to apologize for my lack of Booking Around the World related posts since I’ve never really gotten into a consistent posting schedule thus far. But I’m happy to be back with another review, even if I decided to go a little out of order.
The next country on the list was supposed to be Angola, but another book caught my interest first, and it happened to be by an Armenian author.
Bringing Ararat (ISBN-13: 978-0982708408) by Armand Inezian is a collection of short stories spanning across the 20th century Armenian diaspora. I vaguely remember covering the Armenian Genocide in high school classes, but just enough for me to know some verbiage and scattered facts. I knew little, if anything, about the rest of Armenian history and culture. For example, I was not aware of how widespread the Armenian diaspora is, largely due to the Armenian Genocide. Many Armenian refugees fled to Romania, Lebanon, and even the United States during the 20th century.
Bringing Ararat was my first foray into short stories in a while. I have no idea why this form of literature was so neglected by me, but Armand Inezian rekindled my passion for short storytelling. I consider myself as someone firmly rooted in rationality, but allow me to get a little mystical. It is a beautiful, even spiritual experience when a work of art – be it a painting, a song, or a book – enters your life at exactly the right time. Reading Bringing Ararat was one of those experiences.
Some of the stories in Bringing Ararat are funny, some of them poignant, all of them raw. There’s a story about a man plotting to kill his ex-boyfriend’s cat as revenge, and another about a husband dealing with feelings of lust as he has to take care of his dying wife. Inezian’s candid style is what makes these stories relatable across culture and background. For a nation and culture that is sparsely represented in Western media, I think short stories were the perfect way to portray the Armenian people. Each story was like a snapshot of one person’s experience out of millions, yet there is a cohesiveness to the stories, even if all the characters and settings are different.
Moreover, while not the central point of each story, Inezian consistently touched on the theme of immigration. As I mentioned before, many Armenians were essentially forced to be nomads after the Armenian Genocide. The stories felt especially relevant as many countries today face high influxes of refugees. While much of the news tends to focus on how governmental institutions will deal with the refugees, there is much less writing that tries to understand the obstacles that refugees have to face.
While I cannot begin to understand the experience of a refugee, I could relate in some ways through my experience as the child of two immigrants. Inezian used his stories to shed light on topics such as the cultural divide between first-generation immigrants and their own children, generational differences, traditional Armenian views of mental illness, and the feeling of unbelonging that I think all immigrants (or even their children) face. There were so many times while reading Bringing Ararat I had to check and make sure the book wasn’t really about Taiwanese people or Asian-Americans. There is a collective immigrant experience that Inezian successfully tapped into, and it touched a part of my soul that had not been awoken in a long time.
I think a wide range of people would enjoy Bringing Ararat, due to the variety of stories included in the collection. Inezian’s writing is consistently clever and flows naturally. I can see myself recommending this book to many friends who want to learn more about the experience of refugees, as this book shows a personal side to the story of refugees that cold, hard data and academic sources simply can not.