Ethnicity and Literature: A Discussion with Nancy Kricorian and Aris Janigian

MAR 11, 2013 | 6:30 PM TO 8:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




March 11, 2013: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM







What makes a novel "American fiction”? Can the heart of the American experience be captured with core characters that are Armenian, Arab, or Turkish?  Can an "ethnic" novel ever qualify as a "great American novel" or is it forced to speak to the center from the sidelines, giving voice to a marginalized, powerless "minority."  It is said that in multicultural societies such as the United States, authors write to answer the question: Who are you and where do you come from?

This panel examines the work of two second-generation Armenian American authors, Nancy Kricorian and Aris Janigian. It asks what inspires them and what their voices represent. In particular, the panel will focus on their new books, All the Light There Was (Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt) and This Angelic Land (West of West Books).

All the Light There Was is the story of an Armenian family’s struggle to survive the Nazi occupation of Paris in the 1940s—a lyrical, finely wrought tale of loyalty, love, and the many faces of resistance. On the day the Nazis march down the rue de Belleville, fourteen-year-old Maral Pegorian is living with her family in Paris; like many other Armenians who survived the genocide in their homeland, they have come to Paris to build a new life. The adults immediately set about gathering food and provisions, bracing for the deprivation they know all too well. But the children—Maral, her brother Missak, and their close friend Zaven—are spurred to action of another sort, finding secret and not-so-secret ways to resist their oppressors. Only when Zaven flees with his brother Barkev to avoid conscription does Maral realize that the Occupation is not simply a temporary outrage to be endured. After many fraught months, just one brother returns, changing the contours of Maral’s world completely.