I Want Some Books About Armenia
November 27, 2012 11:32 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me books about Armenia, to learn about the country and people and disaspora.

I'm trying to learn more about Armenia, and I would like to read a history of the country, especially pre-20th century. But I'd most like to read some social history talking about day-to-day life, culture, art, and so on.

I'm looking for non-fiction, not novels, although I could be talked into a novel if it were bang on topic. Books must be in English. Good articles are also exciting. I would prefer something with an accessible tone -- written for a lay reader who's curious about Armenian history is best, but an academic book that's not dry as a bone is also fine. Bonus points if I can read it on my kindle but it's okay if I have to order it used or read an article online or whatever. In a perfect world there'd be a Bill Bryson of Armenian history who hits the high points accurately but amusingly with memorable details and excellent factoids.

My sum total of knowledge of Armenia is skimming the Wikipedia article, and some vague recollections from AP History class about the Armenian genocide, and I will soon be spending some time with a friend who is Armenian and whose heritage is very important to him. I'd like to understand it better.
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Education (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be happy to give you a Skype or phone lecture if you want. (My research is mainly on Armenia and I have an oh-so-practical BA in Armenian Studies.)

My fave book on American diaspora issues is Symbol, Myth, and Rhetoric by Jenny Phillips. It is hard to find, but I think you have access to an academic library that can ILL it.

Someone will say Black Dog of Faith by Peter Bakalian but personally I don't enjoy it.

I'd say Michael Arlen's Passage to Ararat is almost exactly what you want because it does a nice job covering both Western (I.e. diaspora) and Eastern (Tsarist/Soviet + Persian) Armenian history and involves a diasporan going to post-Soviet Armenia for the first time. It also is written in a popular press style.

But seriously, I have a 20 minute, 1 hour, or 3 hour 'what you need to know about Armenians and Armenia' talk that I have to give all the time and it wouldn't be a big deal for me to give it to you. :)
posted by k8t at 12:39 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

PS, protip - if your friend is diasporan, don't focus so much on Armenia, the country in your research. The people there and the bulk of diasporans are, for all intents and purposes, like cousins.
posted by k8t at 12:41 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Robert Bedrosian has pretty excellent collection of resources on early Armenian history, mostly out-of-copyright material available on line. You can also check other sources he excerpts or references. The best place to start navigating the site is here.
posted by nangar at 1:41 AM on November 28, 2012

I read The Bastard of Istanbul last year, and I loved it. Definitely a novel (and one that takes place in modern times - two young women, one Turkish and one Armenian, sorting out their families' histories regarding the genocide) but it's well-written. I knew nothing about the Armenian Genocide before reading the book, now I know a little bit more.
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:53 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heh, I was going to recommend Peter Balakian as well, but only because he was a professor where I went to college... so I know him only very tangentially....

I have one of his books (The Burning Tigris) languishing unread on my shelf :(
posted by theRussian at 10:14 PM on November 28, 2012

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