New Book on Armenia Debuts at Armenian Prelacy

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New Book on Armenia Debuts at Reception Held at Armenian Prelacy

By Weekly Correspondent

The Armenian Weekly

December 20, 1997

New York – Lucine Kasbarian’s new educational textbook entitled “Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People” made its debut at a reception held at the Armenian Prelacy on Friday evening, November 21. Sponsored jointly by Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Land & Culture Organization (LCO), this reception featured a warm and intimate atmosphere as it brought together nearly 150 friends and colleagues of Ms. Kasbarian, who is a longtime Armenian community activist and full time writer/editor for a NYC trade magazine.

The new book is an introduction to the land, history and culture of the Armenian people, and is designed for readers ages 9 and up. It is published by Dillon Press, a division of Simon & Schuster and is one of 35 volumes in the Discovering Our Heritage book series, which offers thorough-yet-condensed explorations of various nations of the world.

LCO-USA President Armen Garabedian opened the evening’s program by expressing his great pleasure in introducing the author, who is currently an LCO board member. Iris Papazian also introduced the author on behalf of the Armenian Prelacy. Papazian placed the new book’s usefulness into context by elaborating upon what it had been like growing up in this country without having adequate reading material about the Armenians.

“The story of growing up Armenian in America for my generation – the children of the survivors – has not yet been adequately studied nor written about,” noted Papazian. “But, certainly, I can tell you that one of the pressing needs was some kind of acknowledgment, a reinforcement, from the society around us that a place called Armenia and a people called Armenians truly existed. Believe me, there were times when I, a young schoolgirl in the early 1940s, seriously doubted that Armenia was real.”

Papazian recalled soaking up every work of William Saroyan in the 1940s, and lingering over and touching the word “Armenian” on the printed text making sure it didn’t really say”American.” “I had finally found the affirmation I craved so desperately: A book in English, accessible to everyone, written by an Armenian, and about Armenians. Now, decades later, Lucine has written the “real book” I was looking for. A book that young and old alike, Armenian and non-Armenian, can pick up, read easily with enjoyment and learn about this place called Armenia as well as her children scattered around the globe.”

Ms. Kasbarian then gave a brief presentation in which she offered her own perspectives on why the writing of this book was important. She stressed that the book is, in a sense, a product of a particular sort of life – the life of the Diasporan who attempts to bridge different worlds. “As a result of early lessons in life, one of the perceptions I carry with me today is the belief that you can operate as a well-rounded individual with a global perspective and be a healthy, productive member of two distinctly different communities at the same time. Even more, this can take place without feeling as if being active in an “ethnic” capacity will hold you back, make you provincial-minded, or restrict you from engaging in more “worldly” or “lucrative” pursuits,” she noted. “Uniquely ethnic experiences I had while growing up – Camp Haiastan, the Armenian Youth Federation, the Nayiri Western Armenian Folk Dance Ensemble, and the Siamanto Academy – all played an important role in the development of perspectives and convictions I hold today. Similarly, finding productive ways in which to express a collective sense of loss of a homeland we had never seen – such as attending political rallies and demonstrations – also played an important role. These help explain why I think a book about Armenia – geared to an American audience – may show that you can bridge a gap between cultures. I also hope the idea of juggling a life in two separate worlds will encourage young Armenian-Americans to carry their ethnic attachments wherever they may go so that they may advocate Hai Tahd (the legitimate claims of the Armenian people) in whatever areas of expertise they may happen to pursue.”

She added, “Like many of you, I found myself introducing friends and colleagues to Armenian history and culture at every turn in my life – as though it softened the blow about our collective tragedies as a people -- if we talked about it and educated others. That became such a way of life that this book seems to be yet another extension of that tendency, another step in exposing others to the story of the Armenians.”

During her reflections, Kasbarian spoke about the experience of working on historic Armenian lands – whether in Kessab, Syria, war-ridden Artsakh, or in present-day Armenia itself. As site leader for several LCO reconstruction missions, Kasbarian credits these experiences with helping her develop a strong bond with fellow Diasporan Armenians and to build a sense of accomplishment within the Armenian experience. These are all experiences, she continued, which have served her well in producing the current textbook.

Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian also rose to make congratulatory remarks, expressing the community’s pride in Ms. Kasbarian’s efforts. Then he introduced Ms. Alvart Petrossian, Chair of the Armenian Relief Society of Armenia and a member of the Armenian Writer’s Union, who also offered a few words on the occasion.

Reception attendees then invited the author to sign copies of her book while taking part in a buffet of traditional Armenian appetizers.

Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People is now being marketed to school libraries and the general public throughout the US and Canada. For more information, please contact the Armenian National Committee or the Armenian Prelacy.