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Chris Bohjalian

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Birth date 12 August 1961
Resides in Lincoln (Vermont)
Education Amherst College
Profession Author
Languages English
Ethnicities Armenian, Swedish
Awards Mesrop Mashtots Medal
Spouses Victoria Schaeffer Blewer
Children Grace

Chris Bohjalian has called The Sandcastle Girls the most important book he will ever write. Published in July to great acclaim, this story of the Armenian Genocide debuted at #7 on the New York Times bestseller list, and appeared as well on the Publishers’ Weekly, USA Today, and national Independent Bookstore bestseller lists.

USA Today called it “stirring. . .a deeply moving story of survival and enduring love.” Entertainment Weekly observed, “Bohjalian – the grandson of Armenian survivors – pours passion, pride, and sadness into his tale of ethnic destruction and endurance.” And the Washington Post concluded that the novel was “intense. . .staggering. . .and utterly riveting.” The Sandcastle Girls was also an Book of the Week.

It was also a Washington Post and Library Journal "Best Book" of 2012.

He is the author of fifteen books, including the other New York Times bestsellers, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.

Chris's awards include the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. His earlier novels have been selected as "Best Books of the Year" by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, Publishers' Weekly, and Salon. His work had been translated into over 25 languages and three times become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers).

He has written for a wide variety of magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, and has been a columnist for Gannett's Burlington Free Press since 1992. Chris graduated from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.


Idyll Banter

Burlington Free Press

Chris Bohjalian Every family is interesting: Just ask

February 27, 2005

Idyll Banter By Chris Bohjalian

My uncle died of lung cancer in December, and at his memorial service in Florida last month, I learned two incredibly cool facts about him that I wish I had known when he was alive.

Cool Fact No. 1: When he was in the Army in the Korean War, he was one of the soldiers who escorted Marilyn Monroe through Korea on her USO tour there in 1954.

Cool Fact No. 2: In the late 1970s, he owned a small chain of yogurt stands in New York City called "Yeah, Yogurt!" and his Times Square store was frequented almost entirely by young people watching their weight, which in Times Square in the late 1970s meant mostly prostitutes. There were, according to his children -- my cousins -- some young actors who frequented the little store, too. But mostly it was prostitutes.

I also learned the considerably less cool fact that he liked Judy Garland.

This is not the first time that I've been surprised by minutiae from someone's life at a funeral. I even learned things about my own mother at hers. But in the myriad discussions I had with my uncle over the four decades that we knew each other, we never once talked about his experiences in either Korea or Times Square.

Granted, in some of those years I was in diapers and so I probably wasn't a fabulous conversationalist.

And in all fairness I did know the basic facts that Uncle Fred had been a soldier in the Korean War and that he had owned a couple of health food stores when I was in high school. But when we spoke -- and we spoke a lot because he was one of those rare and wonderful people who actually liked people half his age -- we never spoke about these tidbits from his life and so I didn't know the details. Actually, because he was so generous of spirit and interested in other people, we never seemed to speak about him at all. When we talked, we were likely to discuss my wife and my daughter, his wife and children and grandchildren, and football.

Football is, of course, the great life preserver to which all men cling in times of conversational awkwardness. I don't honestly know what women do when there is an uncomfortable pause in a conversation, but men invariably resort to football. When Uncle Fred was dying this autumn, we never talked about his imminent mortality or the excruciating pain he was in, but we talked a lot about the Giants and the Dolphins, which, given their seasons, at least put us in an appropriately somber frame of mind.

You would think that by the time my uncle died I would have learned my lesson and made the effort to ask him to tell me about his life. After all, in the last quarter century I managed not to ask my two Armenian grandparents a single thing about their lives in Turkey or Armenia or Paris in the years surrounding the First World War. This was no small accomplishment, since when I was a child their house always looked like the Istanbul wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Likewise, I never asked my mother a single question about her sister who had died of spinal meningitis when the two siblings were in elementary school. And yet as a novelist and journalist, I ask these sorts of questions of people who are strangers all the time.

The truth is that too few of us take the time to access these remarkable sources of history all around us. We might know, for instance, that ol' Auntie Em liked ice fishing and smelt, but somehow we missed the detail that she was part of a civil rights march in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

It's already the end of February, and so I'm a little behind with my New Year's resolutions. But here's one I'll make before it's really too late: This year I'm finally going to sit down with my father and my aunt and ask them to tell me about their lives.

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Catholicos Aram I Awards Chris Bohjalian With Mashdots Medal

ANTELIAS - The Catholicosate of Cilicia hosted the presentation of Chris Bohjalian "The Sandcastle Girls" on December 3. The event in Antelias was attended by Lebanese lawmakers and executive body representatives. In his address to the gathering, Catholicos Aram I considered Bohjalian's message and love of great importance.

Bohjalian expressed gratitude to Aram I and the people who have organized the book presentation as well as to Armenian Weekly's editor Khachik Muradian for supporting the publishing of the book.

Bohjalian, after thanking the supporters for presenting his book, dwelled on his Armenian and non Armenian roots. The author of the bestseller recalled his childhood days when his mother used to take him to the grave of his dead grandparents, which has left a deep impression on him. Concluding his speech, Catholicos Aram I awarded Chris Bohjalian with the "Mesrop Mashtots" medal.

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