Sunday, August 24, 2008

Armenian genocide

Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction, YA
Review: Bagdasarian fictionalizes this account of his great-uncle's survival of the Armenian genocide to good effect. Fictionalization allows for more reflection that a 12-year-old probably had at the time. But Bagdasarian does not take it too far, and physical details of people and surroundings are sparse. The experience is clearly the most important thing.

And the experience is brought to life all too well. The story begins in 1915 and Vahan, the fictional name Bagdasarian gives his great-uncle, is 12. He is the youngest son of a wealthy and successful Armenian lawyer in Turkey. But his father's position and influence do not save the family, and the horrors begin all too soon. Bagdasarian does not pull his punches.

If I would change anything about this book, I would only ask for more historical background. If, as Bagdasarian says, part of his reason for writing this book was to bring the atrocities committed against the Armenians to light, he succeeds. But a bit more historical information would have helped. Why were the Germans at the consulate willing to tolerate an Armenian presence? Why was Constantinople safe for Armenians when the rest of Turkey was so dangerous? Some more explanation on these questions and a few others would have been nice, but not having the answers did not detract from the power of this book.

No comments: