Social historian, Gary A. Kulhanjian’s latest book, titled “A Kaleidoscope of Armenian Immigration to America: Origins of a Modern Diaspora,” has been published.
Kulhanjian was born to Armenian immigrant parents and raised in New York City later Teaneck, New Jersey. He now lives in California with his family. His maternal grandmother lived in Fresno, California for many years.
Kulhanjian is a retired educator who taught at the secondary and collegiate levels in several institutions. His publications include: introductions of other books, articles, book reviews, journal entries and encyclopedia entries, and in other sources. He holds three degrees in higher education.
The saga of the Armenian immigrants’ experience connects them to the mainstream of American civilization with other groups who sought refuge and opportunities in America. The book reveals different patterns of a kaleidoscope in time frames they created a new diaspora.
The scope of the book is made up of a Forward written by retired New York State Judge Michael Boyajian. The book includes: the Introduction, seven Chapters, Appendix, and other features. Each chapter has Notes which synthesize the length of research for the volume. It took five years to write and decades of research. The book is unique for several reasons which are noteworthy since it can be listed under several titles as a history, social science, ethnic studies, and immigration. Suffice it to say, it is a subject which overall can be manifested under American or Armenian studies.
The information in the book is gathered from primary and secondary sources. Beside the sources mentioned the material was researched online for documentation from internet materials. The author includes interviews with many living immigrants and/or their descendants. Some of the sample questions are also included which were asked of immigrants and descendants. In some cases, immigrants were taped during the question- and- answer interviews. The author selected several photos of his family and extended family. Some well-known and not well-known Armenian immigrants are also in the photo section of the book.
Three chapters do not appear in similar books about the Armenian immigrants. They are titled: “Old Ships And Odyssey Of Transoceanic Travel,” “Diversity Of Armenian Immigrants,” and “An Untold Testimonial Story.”
The story of ships is about old and new ships which many Armenians traveled on emigrating from several ports. The difficulties of travel and hardships they endured is synthesized along with old and new studies which were included here. In the diversity of the immigrants’ chapter, the author emphasizes the type of work occupations and who specific immigrants were upon their arrival. The chapter about the untold testimonial pertains to Kulhanjian’s family and their escape from death after many on his paternal side and maternal side did not escape the Armenian Genocide. Some arrived over one hundred years ago. Those relatives who survived were able to find some solace and security in America. It is a case study for many, and every Armenian has a story of their family’s experience emigrating from the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. Two of his relatives wrote brief essays of their fathers who were survivors of the Armenian Genocide and were the Kulhanjian brothers.
Another case study, readers can find informative is that of a “mail-order bride,” who came to America after her family was extirpated in the Armenian Genocide. The author discusses other sources on the subject also. He interviewed the Armenian woman in her later years, and she gave him documents about her experience.
In reading the book, he uses chronology in parts of the text; however, he primarily relies on a thematic approach of the material that is written about. The volume includes Armenian American scholars and others who have done research on immigrants and immigration not just about Armenians. He incorporates other minorities, and their experiences in coming to America and living in a new environment. He believes there are parallels and differences of various groups. He also draws from the body of research on studies made about Armenians. Some historians think Armenians had little in common with other groups and others believe they did.
Some immigrants, who were not interviewed but written about, were found in the research. The interviewees were quite extraordinary to Kulhanjian. However, the last chapter done in a chronological format of mini-biographies pertaining to dozens of biographies researched for the book. The impact of the personal interviewees was more emotional for the author. Kulhanjian thinks at present his volume in the English language is one of longest studies on Armenian immigration to America. The Armenian experience is a manifestation of history, like other immigrants, which solidified them to the story of American civilization in a modern diaspora.