Sunday, July 29, 2012

SANDCASTLE GIRLS: Something there is that doesn't like a line (to paraphrase Robert Frost)

Armenians walking into the desert on a canvas at the Armenian Library Museum of America, as Chris Bohjalian speaks on his most recent novel, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS, #7 on the New York Times Best Seller List
Something there is that doesn't like a line (to paraphrase Robert Frost).  Even nature agrees.  There are no straight lines or right angles in nature (that is to say, occurring naturally in nature.) And if you have begun reading SANDCASTLE GIRLS, from here on in, every time you see a line, you will remember the "line" from the beginning of Sandcastle Girls, when Elizabeth arrives in Aleppo, and the first thing she sees is a line of skinny black naked women straggling into Aleppo -- African slaves?  No, she realizes immediately; Armenian women from the death march, headed for Der el Zor. . . That line was in our face,  literally, (though in white rather than black),  all through Chris Bohjalian's talk about his writing of the SANDCASTLE GIRLS at the Armenian Library and Museum of America on Thursday evening (see photos in the Marash Girl's last two blog posts for July 27 and 28).  And yet, we, the members of the audience, had to "stand in line"after the talk in order to have our copies of the SANDCASTLE GIRLS signed, as grumbling we did for over an hour.  And when we reached Chris Bohjalian, he still had ink in his pen, a smile on his face, and cheer in his voice.  But then again, he had not been standing in line. Upon Marash Girl relating all of this to Marash Boy, he commented, "I hate standing in line.  I don't stand in line.  I simply wait until there is no line, and then go up to accomplish whatever it is that the line was waiting for."  And that brought to mind Marash Girl's father, Peter Bilezikian, who would never stand in line for food (at a buffet, at a wedding, or anywhere else).  He would go hungry if his beautiful wife Jennie, Marash Girl's mom,  didn't bring him his food.  And why was that?  His mother, Yepros Kurtguzian Bilezikian, had taught him as they lived through the starvation and deprivation and . . . and . . . and . . . (you fill in the blanks) of the deporation and genocide, that it was better to go hungry than to beg.  And standing in line for food, as far as the Bilezikians in Marash were concerned, was begging.


  1. Grandma Yepros' teaching was in deed, not just in words. She saw her son walking down the street popping grape after grape into his mouth from a cluster he could barely contain in his left hand. He was eight years old and he was hungry. He was always hungry, as was everybody else who could still stand and not be counted as one of the walking dead, those whose entrails were dragged along behind them, a sight seen often enough to harden a little boy's heart to it. When questioned as to the source of such bounty, her son admitted he had stolen the grapes. For that Grandma Yepros spanked him. I never understood her action until I was well into my adult years. She wanted him to learn that we are to live by the grace of God, and indeed they did. All four children arrived on these shores full cheeked.

    1. Sorry to say that the children arrived here, yes, but not full-cheeked; rather skin and bones.

  2. It must be added that grandma yepros denied herself food so the children could eat. I remember dad saying she would take one spoon of soup, push the bowl away from herself, give it to the children and declare herself full. yepros arrived in this country weighing @1/3 less than her normal weight.

  3. I had an uncle who NEVER ate until he was full, not even on a holiday. When he was old enough to understand how devastating it must have been for their mother to have had them begging her for food during the marches, he was crushed. From that realization on, he could never bring himself to eat until he was satiated.