YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)—Armenian-American novelist Chris Bohjalian did not expect that his book The Sandcastle Girls, which tells the story of the Armenian Genocide in a new light, would be read not only in the U.S. but around world.
The honorary guest of the Literary Ark Festival 2015 said during a meeting with Armenian readers that when he started the book in 2010, he decided to write it in a way so that American readers could learn about the Armenian Genocide through a love story. His readers, according to Bohjalian, did not have to be ashamed for not knowing about the Armenian Genocide. The author said that he had never expected the book to be read outside of the U.S. and moreover that a film would be shot based on the book. Bohjalian’s friend, Eric Nazarian, will start filming in Boston and Spain in the coming year.
Describing it as “his most personal adaptation yet,” Nazarian said that the “film projector” in his mind went wild when he read the book, and he knew immediately that he had to make it into a movie.
Bohjalian also notes that The Sandcastle Girls is the most important book he has ever written.
Chris Bohjalian graduated from Amherst College, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. In the mid-1980s, he worked as an account representative for J. Walter Thompson, an ad agency, in New York. After a threatening incident in town, he moved with his wife to Lincoln, Vermont, in 1987.
In Lincoln, Bohjalian began writing weekly columns for local newspaper and magazine about living in the small town, which had a population of about 975 residents. The column has run in the Burlington Free Press since 1992. Bohjalian has also written for such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, The New York TImes, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.
Bohjalian’s first novel, A Killing in the Real World, was released in 1988. His third novel, Past the Bleachers, was released in 1992 and was adapted to a Hallmark Channel television movie in 1995.
In 1998, Bohjalian wrote his fifth book, Midwives, a novel focusing on rural Vermont midwife Sibyl Danforth, who becomes embroiled in a legal battle after one of her patients died following an emergency Caesarean section. The novel was critically acclaimed and was selected by Oprah Winfrey as the October 1998 selection of her Oprah’s Book Club, which helped push the book to great financial success. It became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. In 2001, the novel was adapted into a Lifetime Movie Network television film starring Sissy Spacek in the lead role. Spacek said the Danforth character appealed to her because “the heart of the story is my character’s inner struggle with self-doubt, the solo road you travel when you have a secret”.
His The Sandcastle Girls (2012) is about the Armenian Genocide and its century-long denial by Turkey. The novel includes two stories in one: the story of Elizabeth Endicott and Armen Petrosian, lovers who meet in Syria during the genocide; and the story of Laura Petrosian, their granddaughter, who after a century tries to understand why they were so silent about their youth, while her suburban existence is quite different from the violent setting in which her grandparents fell in love. According to USA Today, Bohjalian makes “a near-century-old event come to life in a way that will make readers gasp with shock that such a terrible event — Turkey’s determination to kill all the Armenians in their country — is such a small part of our knowledge of world history”. Oprah Winfrey chose it as a Book of the Week: “This rendering of one of history’s greatest (and least known) tragedies is a nuanced, sophisticated portrayal of what it means not only to endure but also to insist on hope”.