The Armenian Genocide: Not to be Forgotten

The Armenian Flag

For most people, today is just another Tuesday, but for the Armenian community, it’s the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Because most of you are completely unaware of this event, I’d like to share some information about the tragedy.

Now, even though I’m only 25% Armenian, I identify more with Armenian culture than any within my Caucasian background. Bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Iran, and Azerbaijan, it’s a small country about the size of Maryland. Conquered by everyone from the Persians and Romans to the Soviet Union, it wasn’t officially recognized as its own country until 1991.

While modern Armenia suffers from the second worst economy in the world (Forbes, 2011), its population of over 3.5 million citizens and a large diaspora centered in California (Fresno and Glendale, specifically) has created an extremely close-knit, proud community.

As generations lack the Armenian language and enter in interracial marriages, the culture will lose its prominence, but hopefully, we can continue to share our experiences and educate the world about our people.

One of the ways we can raise awareness is to discuss the single most important event in our history: The Armenian Genocide. Because Armenia is a tiny Christian nation in the Islamic Middle East (rumor has it that Noah’s ark landed on Mt. Ararat), Muslim groups have tried to exterminate their religious enemies.

Mount Ararat in Armenia

From 1915-1923, about 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman Turks–predominantly through death marches, mass burnings, drownings, and hangings. I won’t show any graphic photographs of the massacres, but if you Googled images of the Armenian Genocide, you would find plenty of evidence.

Despite this evidence, Turkey and various other countries still continue to deny the existence of this genocide, claiming that the Armenians brought violence upon themselves by initiating conflict. Because of this denial, there’s a strong animosity between Armenia and Turkey. The E.U. has also refused Turkey entry, partly because it has yet to admit its past wrongdoings.

However, even the United States has yet to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, and often refuses to use the term ‘genocide’ in media. President Obama promised during his campaign that he would finally offer recognition, but has not fulfilled that promise.

The reason behind this decision is because the U.S. shares a military base in Turkey, and Turkey has warned the U.S. that if it were to recognize the genocide, that alliance would disintegrate. Most presidents and lawmakers have been too afraid to lose that strategic location in the Middle East.

Why does this 97-year-old event still matter? Unlike the Jewish population, the Armenians did not get the Nuremberg Trials. We suffered just as traumatic of an ethnic-cleansing, but much of the world refuses to acknowledge that it even happened. In fact, Hitler allegedly declared this statement one week before invading Poland in 1939:

Now I dare you to look an Armenian in the face and tell her that she has no reason to feel frustrated, resentful, and upset. Even though my great-grandfather escaped the genocide by fleeing to America with his family (Note: legally, given that he had a job waiting for him when he arrived, as did much of the Armenian community), I have many friends who lost a relative or several. That pain still cuts deep.

We lost half of our population in just a few years, and our culture has never fully recovered. Not to mention, when we as a globe ignore genocide, we silently allow more genocide to continue. And that is an issue everybody should care about.

What do Armenians want? Besides global recognition, many Armenians would appreciate Turkey to pay reparations and include the genocide in schools, since all references have been censored from textbooks. We want to be able to coexist and respect one another’s religious beliefs, so that we can move forward diplomatically. We want the next generation to be more knowledgeable and tolerant of each other’s culture.

And, of course, we never want the Armenian Genocide to be forgotten.

I hope that you have learned a lot about Armenia and its tragedy, so please share this information with somebody today. By raising awareness, we can make the world a better, more tolerant place. And please feel free to comment or ask questions, because this is an issue near and dear to my heart.

Later today, I will also write a post about my favorite poem surrounding the Armenian Genocide. So keep a look out!

Shnorhakal em! (Thank you!)

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A Dystopian Timeline

I ran across this awesome infographic on Goodreads and wanted to share it with you. It shows the various trends and popularity in dystopian literature from the Great Depression to today. While I personally feel that romance has weakened the power of the genre, I will support any book like The Hunger Games that can get people interested in classics like 1984 or Brave New World. In fact, if a student of mine is a fan of Katniss and Peeta, I immediately steer her in the direction of Bernard and Lenina.

Teachers should use young adult fiction as an opportunity to broaden teens’ reading habits. Love Twilight? Read Wuthering Heights. Obsessed with Percy Jackson? Try Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. I admit that I can be a literary elitist at times, and these teaching moments will not only encourage kids to keep reading, it will get them to read better books, in my opinion. You shouldn’t talk about Harry Potter on the SAT essay, but why not discuss witchcraft in Macbeth?

Anyway, what are your thoughts of this dystopian uprising? How do you think the genre will change in the decades to come? Let me know!

Image via Goodreads

Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens!

Even Google honored Dickens’ b-day!

Today is the bicentennial of Charles Dickens’ birth (lived 1812-1870), so I thought I’d offer my opinion of the man synonymous with Victorian literature. But first, some random facts I learned about him via his Wikipedia page:

  • He was the second of eight children, and then had ten children with his wife Catherine.
  • He had a near photographic memory.
  • He was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash of 1865, in which the first seven train carriages fell off a broken bridge. Dickens was in the last first-class carriage, and his experiences helping the wounded left him traumatized.
  • Five years to the day of that accident, Dickens died. His last words were allegedly, “Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art.”
  • He stated in his will to not erect any monuments for him, but a life-size bronze statue can be found in Philadelphia.

Now I have a love/hate relationship with Dickens’ work. I think that A Christmas Carol is so overrated that I refuse to read it. I also loathe Great Expectations with a bloody passion after my freshman “English teacher”/debate coach completely ruined the novel with ridiculous assignments. However, I read Hard Times, and although it was pretty dull, I appreciate it as a honest look into the Industrial Revolution.

And, of course, my favorite novel of his will always be A Tale of Two Cities. It probably has one of the best first lines in literature:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

I’ll write a full review of A Tale of Two Cities for the next Masterpiece Monday, but it’s an exquisite story of love and turmoil during the French Revolution. Yes, due to serially writing his installments, Dickens is known for rambling about very little for a very, very long time, but I would say that the last five chapters of A Tale of Two Cities was one of the most rewarding reading experiences–so worth the struggle to get that far.

The Washington Post put it aptly: “We live in the age of TLDR — “Too long, didn’t read [but] When Victorian readers slummed it and put down their Seneca and Marcus Aurelius and whatever else it was they were expected to be reading, they picked up Charles Dickens in the grocery-store checkout aisle. If only we were so lucky.”

So while I may not love Dickens enough to attend UCSC’s week-long summer event “The Dickens Universe” (which I’ve heard is positively delightful, so click here for more info if it tickles your fancy), I do respect the author for shining a spotlight on the working class and giving us some of literature’s most memorable characters, such as Oliver Twist and Miss Havisham.

As for my own reading update, I just finished Book One of Tender is the Night, and because the book’s taking longer than normal to finish, I’ll probably post a mini-review sometime this week. Stay tuned!

Book Club Babe went print this fall!

So I have finished all of my assignments in my undergraduate Desktop Publishing class. We created a variety of flyers and brochures with InDesign, and our final project was a four-page newsletter. I chose to feature some of my favorite blog posts, so I thought I’d share the pics with you:

Page 1

 

Page 2

 

Page 3

 

Page 4

 

I didn’t realize how long my blog posts were until I saw them in print, so unfortunately I had to cut a bit from each article. I’ve designed newspaper pages before, so I wouldn’t say this newsletter is my best work, but I enjoyed the whole process of creating it. I hope you like it too!

In Defense of Classical Studies

The Spartans would know exactly how to shut Rush up!

I have never liked Rush Limbaugh: he’s an ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic embarrassment of conservatives everywhere. Usually I don’t give him the time of day, but yesterday I read something on his website that infuriated me to no end. It’s called “Deciphering the Sad-Sack Story of a Classical Studies Scholar.”

In the transcript he insults a Wall Street Protester who as a Classical Studies graduate feels hopeless in this recession. He asserts that her degree is useless and calls her “Miss Brain-dead.” He doesn’t even seem to know what Classical Studies entails:

What the hell is Classical Studies?  What classics are studied?  Or, is it learning how to study in a classical way?  Or is it learning how to study in a classy as opposed to unclassy way?

If you aren’t pissed yet, keep reading:

But most of these majors are useless, such as black women studies, women’s studies, whatever studies.

So according to Rush, not only are Greek and Latin scholars worthless, but also anyone who doesn’t worship white male Republicans like himself. I don’t know which majors are acceptable to him, but if you don’t pick one he likes, apparently you’re a socialist.

Since Rush has obviously the intellectual capacity of a dung beetle, I’ll spell it out for him. Because as a Classical Studies minor who spent two years studying Latin and ancient Greek/Roman literature, I’d like to clarify that not only am I highly employable, I have skills the average college graduate could use:

Classical Studies makes you a better reader, writer, and thinker. I have an excellent vocabulary, because I understand the Latin etymologies of English words. This is essential in my job, because I teach high school students how to make educated guesses when they’re faced with an SAT word they don’t know. The analytic skills needed to translate Latin, or any language for that matter, is similar to solving a math problem: you fit together the words one step at a time and the result is achieving a higher level of knowledge–a level Rush can’t even comprehend, let alone reach.

Classical Studies is not dead. If anyone tells me Latin is a dead language one more time, I’m going to go Catullus on their ass. Latin lives in all the Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc.) and English to a great extent. The ancient Greeks and Romans created Western civilization as we know it: architecture, art, politics, education, philosophy, the list goes on and on. Next time Rush gushes over an American monument like the White House or references “the Founding Fathers” or “American democracy,” he should thank Pericles and Augustus instead of Reagan and Bush.

Classical Studies is what you make it. Every college grad is struggling right now. I know engineers who can’t get jobs, so don’t make the excuse that it’s all your fault if you picked a major in the humanities or social sciences. We are all victims of this economy, but Rush is too rich to have any pity for the middle class man or woman. That being said, Classical Studies scholars can either further their education to become professors or apply their knowledge to other fields. As a future journalist and novelist, my expertise in grammar and oration will greatly benefit my story-telling. Ever read a little book called Harry Potter? In case you didn’t know, most character names and spells are Latin.

To anyone who’s interested in the Classics, don’t despair. Learning Latin was the best decision I made in college, and now I know a language usually reserved for the most educated and elite people of all time. You can get a job no matter what you study, as long as market your skills accordingly. I’m optimistic that my minor will actually help me stand out in the job market, but I’m also determined enough to make my dream career come true.

As for Rush, I only have one thing to say to you: Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo!

Food for Thought While I’m Gone

Hey everybody!

I’m going out of town this weekend, so I won’t be blogging until Masterpiece Monday. I’ll leave you with an interesting picture I found on I-Am-Bored.com about the phrases we say today because of Shakespeare. Obviously, we owe A LOT to the Bard, and it’s nice to appreciate his influence on the English language every now and then!

In the meantime, I’ll be reading 1984, eating great food, and dancing like Big Brother’s not watching me! Hahaha!!!

Have a fabulous weekend! Love, Book Club Babe

Big Book Phonies: Buying Novels Just to Look Smarter

Pictured: Just one of my bookshelves, with stacks of manga up to the ceiling!

I just read an article posted yesterday on the Daily Mail’s website called “The books we buy to look more intelligent: How the average shelf is filled with 80 novels we have never read.”

A British survey found:

  • 70% of books on people’s shelves have never been read
  • 40% admitted their collection is for display only
  • 57% only display literary classics, even if they haven’t read them
  • 47% prefer “trashy” novels they would never show
               The books Brits pretend to read the most are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Wuthering Heights. On the flip side, the authors they consider “guilty pleasures” are Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Jackie Collins, Helen Fielding, and Danielle Steele.
               Obviously, this article has flaws, since it doesn’t include how many people were surveyed or their demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, education level, etc.). I don’t even know how the survey was given, whether by phone, online, or randomly asking people on the street. Thus, the results should be taken with a grain of salt.
               I found this article both depressing and amusing. The handful of books on my shelves that I haven’t read are the ones that I haven’t read YET–my to-read list is just backed up right now. But I will get to them eventually, because I could never spend money on a book without even attempting to finish it.
               I bet if this survey was conducted in my town, the results would be even worse. Most people here probably don’t even OWN 80 books! I could count all of my mine, but it would take forever: I’ve filled my two bookshelves to the brim, shoved piles of books in my closet, and stacked hundreds of manga on top of my largest bookshelf so that they reach the ceiling (see photo above). Packing these books when I finally move out of my parents’ house is a recurring nightmare for me!
               But I always tell my students that if you haven’t read a book, don’t pretend to know it. I can tell a mile away. Read it or don’t, period. What if someone strikes up a conversation about To Kill a Mockingbird with you, and you rant about the evils of animal abuse? You’ll just look dumber when your friend realizes you can’t talk the talk.
               That being said, I can understand the pressures to read literary classics and avoid popular fiction. The Jane Austen bandwagon is so huge, sometimes I feel like less of a woman for not finishing Pride and Prejudice. But while I might tell people I read it, I always clarify that I read only the first 50 pages before I got so bored I stopped. I might try it again, but if I don’t, that’s okay. Everyone has different tastes, and I think that as long as people read, it doesn’t matter what the books are.
               I also love Sophie Kinsella, and we should stop treating popular novels as “trashy” or “guilty pleasures.” There’s nothing wrong with reading, or writing, chick-lit/romance novels, and if anyone looks down on you, then screw them. Nobody likes a pompous reader anyway.
               So the moral of my story: be proud of what you read, and don’t waste your money on trying to impress your house-guests. Try to read some classics, but don’t beat yourself up if they’re not your cup of tea. Reading should be a reward, not a punishment.
               What do you guys think of this survey? Are you a big book phony? Do you feel pressure to read certain books? Are there books we “should” or “shouldn’t” read? Post your thoughts!!!