‘The Sandcastle Girls’ Takes Capitol Hill

Bohjalian speaks to a packed Capitol Hill presentation

Bohjalian Briefs Legislators and then Presents Novel to Standing Room Only Congressional Audience

WASHINGTON—New York Times Best-Selling author Chris Bohjalian capped a full day on Capitol Hill with a compelling presentation of “The Sandcastle Girls,” his newly published novel about the Armenian Genocide, to a standing room only Congressional audience today, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Rep. Schiff with Bohjalian

The event in support of the book, published by Doubleday, was co-hosted by Armenian Genocide Resolution lead sponsors, Representatives Robert Dold (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), and the ANCA. The Washington Post, a day before the presentation, announced that “The Sandcastle Girls” debuted as the #4 best-selling book in the national capital area. The author, in addition to making a compelling presentation, signed books for over two hours for a long line of readers that stretched out of the meeting hall.

“Today’s strong turn-out on Capitol Hill speaks very powerfully to Chris Bohjalian’s great talent as a story-teller who enlightens, educates, and – ultimately – empowers his readers,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “His work explores – as only art can – the key unresolved human and moral issues of the Armenian Genocide, raising awareness of this crime, even as it reinforces our common resolve to seek its truthful and just resolution. We look forward to building on this excitement, here in Washington and in communities across our country, to finally get America on the right side of this issue, and to end forever the denial by Turkey of this still unpunished atrocity.”

Community members, who had earlier purchased copies of the book, stood in line to meet the author and have the novel signed before and after the official book presentation. ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian welcomed attendees and cited the important role that works like “The Sandcastle Girls” play in educating mainstream America about the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of Turkey’s Genocide denial.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), seen here with ANCA Leo Sarkisian intern Carina Khanjian and Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian, joined Congressional colleagues at the Capitol Hill presentation of “The Sandcastle Girls”

Representatives Cite Key Role of “The Sandcastle Girls” in Educating Congress about the Armenian Genocide
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Representatives Schiff, Jackie Speier (D-CA) and David Cicilline (D-RI), as well as, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans and his wife Donna joined Congressional staff and community members at the event. The Armenian Ambassador, Tatoul Markarian, who is on travel outside of Washington, DC, was represented by senior diplomats Antranik Hovhannisyan and Harutyun Kojoyan. Among the notable figures publicly recognized at the event was popular actress and community activist Anne Bedian (Ani Nahabedian).

Rep. Schiff explained that Bohjalian’s novel, “which has been so wonderfully reviewed, has a power of its own, to tell the story in very human terms, to bring us all into the living rooms of those who were lost and those who struggled through those dark times in the history of civilization. . . I think it is a vital part in the education of not only the Congress, but the Armenian people about the facts of the Armenian Genocide.”

Rep. Pallone told attendees that “all of you being here and the author’s efforts constantly bring to our attention the need for recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” noting that it is an ongoing effort to secure Congressional reaffirmation of this crime.

Rep. Frank Pallone

Bohjalian Captivates Capitol Hill Audience
Bohjalian opened his remarks by thanking the ANCA and the organization’s interns for bringing “The Sandcastle Girls” to a Congressional audience and for their ongoing grassroots effort to represent Armenian American interests on Capitol Hill. “One of the things that I have learned is that the ANCA is not merely a force of nature to be reckoned with,” said Bohjalian. “The ANCA is a profoundly accurate moral compass and I will always be thankful for the profoundly important legislative work that they have done, that they are doing, and that they continue to do. So, I think you so much for taking me in your warm embrace.”

Bohjalian then thanked his readers, referring to them as the “medieval monks of the digital age, because you still care about what words, and reading and books mean to the soul.”

Bohjalian captivated the audience as he discussed the life journey that inspired him to write the book, and gave moving testament of his visits to the lands of his Armenian ancestors, to current day Armenia, and Anjar, Lebanon, the home of many who fought to defend the villages of Musa Dagh during the Genocide.

In a particularly poignant moment, Bohjalian described his last morning in Yerevan, when he caught a clear glimpse of Mount Ararat as he waited to board his flight home. “There I was standing, at Gate A5 waiting for my flight, and I started weeping. . . I was weeping for my ancestors; I was weeping for the gift of this mountain; and, I was weeping because I knew in my heart that ‘The Sandcastle Girls’ is the most important book that I was ever going to write; and, I was grateful beyond words, that I had been given that gift.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), one of two members of Congress of Armenian descent, with ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian and ANCA interns at the Capitol Hill presentation of “The Sandcastle Girls”

Bohjalian’s Day of Meetings on Capitol Hill
Earlier that day, Bohjalian met with various Members of Congress including, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT). He also met with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, and his wife Marcelle.

Afterwards, Bohjalian took a tour of the recently launched Library of Congress Armenian Exhibit with Dr. Levon Avdoyan, Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist in the Library’s Near East Section, within the African and Middle Eastern Division. The exhibit, set up in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Armenia Literary Tradition, is titled “To Know Wisdom and Instruction: The Armenian Literary Tradition at the Library of Congress.”

Putting The Sandcastle Girls on the Congressional Summer Reading List
Prior to the event, ANCA Leo Sarkisian Program summer interns distributed the books to hundreds of legislators on Capitol Hill, as part of the ANCA’s efforts to put “The Sandcastle Girls” on the Congressional Summer reading list, through the ANCA Endowment’s donate-a-book program. Donors from across the U.S. and abroad, including a generous grant from the George Ignatius Foundation, were recognized individually in each book, along with an inscription noting that the book is offered “in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, in the hope of ending U.S. government complicity in the Turkish government’s ongoing denial of both truth and justice for this crime against all humanity.”

To join the ANCA in helping put “The Sandcastle Girls” on the Congressional summer reading list through a contribution to the ANCA Endowment donate-a-book program, visit: https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=b29104

The novel has received stellar reviews from dozens of publications nationwide, including the Washington Post, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Associated Press, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, and People Magazine. On July 23, it was announced as the Book of the Week on Oprah.com and is currently seventh on the New York Times Best-Sellers List.

Bohjalian spent over about two hours signing books for a long line of “The Sandcastle Girls” enthusiasts.

Bohjalian is currently on a three-week book tour to more than 20 cities. On August 2 at 7:30 pm he will be at the Hovnanian School in New Milford, New Jersey for an event sponsored by the ANC of New Jersey. Bohjalian will then be headed to an event organized by the ANC of New York and hosted by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) at 7:00pm on August 3, 2012. To review the complete roster of events across the country, visit http://www.chrisbohjalian.com/events

In his 15th book, “The Sandcastle Girls,” Bohjalian brings us on a very different kind of journey. The spellbinding tale travels between Aleppo, Syria in 1915 and Bronxville, New York in 2012 – a sweeping historical love story steeped in the author’s Armenian heritage, making it his most personal novel to date.

Interested readers may purchase ‘The Sandcastle Girls’ online from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound or from their local booksellers.

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