Novelist Chris Bohjalian knows that he inherited a history of survival.
As the descendant of Armenian genocide survivors, The New York Times best-selling author discovered resilience was in his blood, inspiring his epic love story “The Sandcastle Girls.”
Library staff selected his work for Glendale’s One Book/One City project, an open invitation for local residents to read a novel together.
“They found me,” said Bohjalian, the first Armenian American author to be featured in the reading event in conversation with City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the Glendale Central Library.
“I’m the grandson of survivors of the Armenian genocide, so this story has always been important to me,” said the Vermont-based novelist. “Writing ‘The Sandcastle Girls,’ however, helped me to discover the part of my ancestral DNA that is deeply Armenian.”
Bohjalian’s historical fiction travels between present day and 1915 Aleppo, Syria. Armenian American character Laura Petrosian pursues her heritage, discovering her grandparents’ romance during World War I and unraveling family secrets kept hidden for years.
The novel has achieved critical success both in and outside the Armenian community for a simple reason, Bohjalian said.
“It’s a love story,” he said.
“The Sandcastle Girls” was translated into more than 25 languages and read in communities without direct ties to the Armenian culture.
“I wrote this book for non-Armenians. Armenians already know this story. Non-Armenians read it,” he said.
Bohjalian’s book was chosen for the city’s reading project for a number of reasons, said Chuck Wike, spokesman for the Glendale Public Library.
“His work is wildly popular,” Wike said. “He's a wonderful speaker, and this novel should resonate with our community.”
Bohjalian believes the support from Armenian National Committee of America and his Los Angeles-area friends helped propel his book to critical acclaim, landing his novel a spot on Oprah’s Book Club.
The One Book/One Glendale project now means that additional readers in the community can find the novel and learn more about the genocide.
“I’ve met a lot of Armenians in Glendale, Los Angeles, who read this book when it first came out and were deeply touched by it. That was gratifying,” he said.
Hardcover, paperback, audiobook, large type, eBook and eAudio versions of “The Sandcastle Girls” are available online and at all Glendale Library, Arts & Culture locations.
What: Chris Bohjalian in conversation with Ardy Kassakhian about Bohjalian’s book “The Sandcastle Girls”
Where: Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St.
When: Thursday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m.
Follow Nicole Charky on Twitter: @Nicosharki.