It started out as a lazy Sunday. We’d gone to church and out to lunch with friends. I came home and crashed on the couch while Armen, my new husband, began to do a little yard work. The phone rang. It was my husband’s mother, Rose, wanting to know why we weren’t at her house.
I rushed outside and told Armen his mother seemed a bit put out. He got on the phone and I heard him try to explain that we’d had a long day. Then he fell silent.
Finally he said, “Okay, we’ll be there!”
I stared at him. “Are you serious?”
He explained that his mother insisted that he’d promised we would be there for Sunday dinner. Rose lived thirty miles away in South Los Angeles. It didn’t matter whether he had or had not promised her, in her mind she thought we were coming and so off we went.
Rose had prepared a feast! All Armenian dishes: Lamahjoon, Manti, homemade Lavash, Sarma, and of course, Dolma.
It was that evening, over a long dinner in her dated dining room, with its faded wallpaper and mismatched china, that I first heard the horrific stories from Rose Guleserian about the Armenian Genocide.
My inspiration for this book.
When Hitler first proposed his Final Solution for the eradication of Europe's Jews, he was told that the world would never permit such a mass murder. Hitler silenced his advisers by asking, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Before World War I, two million Armenians lived within an Ottoman Empire that was collapsing. By 1922, fewer than 400,000 remained.
As the empire was dying, Armenian merchants and industrialists, many in Anatolia, came first under suspicion, then under attack.
What followed was a bloodbath, characterized by executions into mass graves and death marches across the Syrian desert, with many dying along the way. A lucky few escaped.
Ottoman soldiers march Armenian civilians to prison.
Three generations of an Armenian family in a refugee camp.
Armen had alluded to some of his parents’ history in the year we courted. I asked a lot of questions and as she talked I could see the sadness take Rose. Her heavy, wistful heavy sighs and her eyes reflecting a harrowing past that loomed up from her childhood memories. I’ve never forgotten the stories she told that night.
About twenty years later, a friend of mine, Janet Simcic, invited me to join her to take an evening writing class at UCI. I was an avid reader, and I wanted to try my hand at fiction. In 1996, my sister, Therese and I wrote a book published by Focus On the Family called The Baby-Sitters Survival Guide. It was very successful and I enjoyed the process.
I decided right there and then that I’d tell a story that would highlight the Armenian Genocide by the Turks in 1915. I’d told many friends and acquaintances about the murder of 1.8 million Armenians by the Turks, and I was always impressed by the fact that not very many people knew about it. Hence, my character Jenna’s irritation with herself when she’d learned the history from the professor.