In the End, It’s All Just the Stories We Tell

The Monument to the Armenian Alphabet in the hills around the village of Artashavan, Armenia. Photo by Rita Willaert via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Diana Arterian published a sad, lyrical essay at the Los Angeles Review of Books on the legacy of the Armenian Genocide on descendants and diaspora members, skillfully weaving together family memories and verse by Armenian diasporic poets. At its center is a family story that everyone has heard — but that no one knows the truth of.

There is a story. A shepherd boy, 13 or so, has a dozen brothers. His family lives in a small village near a large mountain. One day the boy is gone — with his flock, or to complete a chore, or perhaps even to find a safer place for the family to stay. He returns and finds everyone in the village dead. His brothers are all decapitated, and his father, too. His mother raped by attackers and dead by suicide. Over many years, he makes his way, somehow, halfway across the earth, where he marries a woman from a country near his homeland. They have three sons, none of whom marry. Until one of them does, at the age of 41, to a woman who is 38. They have two daughters, one of whom tells this story to her children for as long as they can remember.

Read the essay