AN EMBASSY AT A BOOK FAIR
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April 25, 2014
Armenian author and book publicist Lucine Kasbarian reflects on
her experience explaining her culture to others, through writing,
publishing, and book fairs.
By Lucine Kasbarian
In his essay, “Where Word-of-Mouth Reigns,” Ed Nawotka suggests that
face-to-face interactions at book conventions are an unrivaled way to
mix business with pleasure in an industry we love. I can attest to
this, having attended many in my capacity as an in-house publicist
for several book publishing companies. When it comes to networking,
discovering new talent, examining industry trends, rekindling
friendships or planting the seeds for future collaborations, nothing
else offers the same impact or pleasure.
This year, two books I authored – “Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring
People”and “The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale” – were showcased at
a stand dubbed “the Armenian Pavilion” at the London Book Fair (LBF).
Why the need for a stand exclusively devoted to Armenian subject matter
As a result of widespread massacre and outright genocide in the 19th
and 20th centuries, Armenians driven from their homeland had to start
their lives anew. Later on, they felt the need to introduce their
lost homeland to their fellow citizens in their adopted countries.
My unintended career as a goodwill ambassador for Armenia began when,
at the age of six, I decided to explain my heritage to my peers.
Donning a traditional costume and performing folk dances, I answered
questions about Armenia for my American classmates – a practice which
persisted throughout elementary school. During high school and college,
I operated Armenian cultural booths at ethnic festivals and helped our
local school system add “The Armenian Question” to our established
genocide curriculum. Alas, this ambassadorial inclination developed
yet further when I began writing and publishing books about the land
and culture of my ancestors.
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, many maps of the world did not
outline Armenia and could have led readers to think that it did not
exist. “Armenia” had been a Soviet state from 1920 up until 1991
but individual Soviet states were not always identified on maps. The
Iron Curtain (and life before the Internet) prevented people living
outside the Soviet Union from having contact with or even reading
very much about the many peoples and cultures within it. “Western
Armenia” was forcibly absorbed into Turkey, where the few Armenians
who remain struggle with persecution and discrimination. As a result,
not much literary information about Western Armenia was available
to the public. In becoming a writer, I wanted young people to have
simply written stories about Armenia and its people – in English and
for young readers of Armenian and other ancestries.
So imagine my gratitude when, in 2013, the Armenian community of
London, in cooperation with generous benefactors, secured funds to
sponsor the first-ever Armenian Pavilion to present literary offerings
about our ancient nation to the publishing world-at-large at LBF. The
goodwill ambassador and book publicist in me were thrilled. When I
learned that my own books were to be included at the 2014 Pavilion,
the author in me was very happy, too.
The Armenian Pavilion serves as a literary embassy of sorts,
where books about nearly every aspect of the Armenian identity can
commingle to give uninitiated publishers, librarians, booksellers,
agents and others a slice of a country and people that are still
largely overlooked or misrepresented.
It was particularly rewarding to know that the Pavilion included
“1st Armenian Literary Agency,” who shopped around manuscripts by
today’s up-and-coming authors of Armenia. In future years, my wish is
to see Armenian communities in the United States sponsor an Armenian
Pavilion at Book Expo America, and which will showcase of some of
Armenia’s greatest literature of yore – still unknown to the world –
in English translation.
I was unable to attend this year’s LBF. But the Pavilion organizers
reported that visitors pored through the offerings written by
some of our global Armenian nation’s best historians, academics
and journalists. I am told that one such visitor to the stand was
a woman of Turkish descent who spent a great deal of time perusing
my book about Armenia. Concurrent to LBF, the Turkish government’s
latest round of media censorship was becoming known to the world. As
such, I could not help but reflect on how – even as we now approach
the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians,
Assyrians and Hellenes – the official state narrative taught in
Turkish schools about ancient and modern Turkish history does not
reflect the historic reality. It was gratifying, therefore, to know
that this Turkish visitor could avail herself of information not
otherwise easily available to her.
If quenching a thirst for knowledge can help such individuals be in a
future position to usher in an age of restoration to those afflicted
by the Genocide, then what better time is there for Armenians to
represent their civilization and present their case to the world than
with their own Literary Pavilion?
Lucine Kasbarian is an Armenian-American author, editorial cartoonist
and book publicist on extended leave. She and her husband, writer
David Boyajian, live and work in Massachusetts and New Jersey. Visit
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress