Around the Island

Friday Night Dialogues: The story of an Armenian genocide survivor

COURTESY PHOTO | Cover of the book ‘The Resurrection of an Armenian Girl’
COURTESY PHOTO | Cover of the book ‘The Resurrection of an Armenian Girl’

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of un-important people … Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it … For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”  

—Excerpted from a quote by William Saroyan.

The revitalization of the spirit and wisdom of a grandmother, of a people and how that “will to live with compassion” is absorbed through generations.

Islander Richard Tarpinian has an amazing story to tell — of a son and that son’s intimate connection to his grandmother and ultimate book about her growing up and, at age 11, surviving the Armenian genocide of 1915. The story told in this brand new book and the surrounding context of the people involved will be the subject of our August 4 Friday Night Dialogue at the Shelter Island Library.

Richard’s late son and author, Stephen Tarpinian, was a revered swim coach, well known triathlon and ironman organizer and athlete who authored several important sports books and videos. Stephen as a true teacher, believed in people and uniquely drew their stories out as he did with his trusting grandmother, Hripsime Hekimian Tarpinian (Helen).

The story of her youth, her family and town’s death march from Sivas, Turkey to the Syrian desert is at once horrifying and uplifting. Her ultimate survival, rehabilitation and search for her brother, all the while trying to get out from under the hostility towards the Armenians, leads her to America. A new life, freedom and equality for Christians, she becomes a wife and mother … and we are left to ponder what is in her heart after witnessing all-too-vividly what men, at their depths, are capable of doing to each other.

By writing “The Resurrection of an Armenian Girl,” Stephen ensured that Helen, and this tragedy that beset the Armenian people, would never be forgotten.

Upon his unexpected death in 2015, his family and loved ones took up his cause. They finished the book as a tribute to Helen and Stephen and added an epilogue about Helen’s connection to the survivors and her enduring legacy of love and light.

A must for history buffs and an exciting page-turner of a true story you will not soon forget, this book leaves you thinking and appreciating life. Free copies of the book will be available. Donations will go to the Stephen Tarpinian Memorial Fund which provides triathalon grants and scholarships to high school swimmers, bikers and runners.

Join us on Friday, August 4 at 7 p.m. at the Library.

Up next: On Friday August 18 at 7 p.m., Shelter Islander Dr. Carol Galligan will discuss her book “Collision Course: The Vatican, The Nuns of America and the Meaning of Obedience.”