April 24, 2021 President Joe Biden fully acknowledged “genocide” occurred between 1915-23 with the “…systematic killings and deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces…not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
The long awaited announcement was a magical moment for Bruce Badrigian, a Cuesta College and retired Morro Bay High School English teacher and reading specialist. In 2016, he self-published an historical novel “Armenia’s Fingerprint: A Family’s Fight Against Genocide in WWI.”
Badrigian’s book launch included an open letter he posted on Facebook. The author said he wrote the book “…because in my heart I knew that my family would lose its origins after I am gone.”
Although he chose the historical novel genre, ninety percent of the content is documented after years of research with “first-person accounts of survivors and witnesses,” including his surviving grandparents.
Morro Bay’s Coalesce Book Store’s owner, Linna Thomas recalled, “I’ve known Bruce for three or four decades. For many years he was the heart-throb English teacher at Morro Bay High! When his book came out we were deluged with requests!”
KVEC-NewsTalk host Dave Congalton hosted Badrigian in December 2020. The compelling interview is still available by podcast. Producer Craig Hill was once his student and believed he could remember every word his teacher had said, especially about his family’s story. Hill had questions about the Armenian “death march” on April 24, 1915, when seventy-five percent of Badrigian’s Armenian ancestry — men, women and children — were forced to leave their homeland with only the clothes on their backs by Shotas, prisoners released and consigned to “escort” them out of their country. Brutality was rampant, including denying them food and water along the way. Ultimately, 3.5M were slaughtered — Armenian, Greek and Syrian Christians.
“My Cuesta students say it is a hard read, but they can’t put it down,” said Badrigian to Congalton.
Why didn’t we know?” asked Congalton. “This was not in my history books.”
“It was ignored because it was during World War I.”
Badrigian’s response begs the question why post-war attempts continue to ignore its teaching and why Nuremberg-style trials never punished the leadership that perpetrated the World War I pre-Hitler genocide. In 2020 Badrigian was hopeful President Biden would make good on his campaign promise. Meanwhile, it was his mission in life to research and publish the real story.
As a genre, historical fiction introduces readers to our history while entertaining with a compelling story. The author’s underlying motivation is to make sure our history is documented somewhere so generations ultimately understand and are inspired by a human’s humanity or never forget atrocities some humans are capable of doing to other humans.
It was good news to Congalton when Badrigian told him a revival in sales of his book had happened since July 2019 when it was published by XanEdu Publishing. The publisher contacted Badrigian saying, “This story needs to be told. We don’t have a book like this to tell this story. We want it published in all the libraries in America.”
Badrigian visited Armenia to observe the 104th Anniversary. “I learned how strong my father was.” He was asked to tell his grandmother’s horrific survival story on international television. Badrigian was particularly moved by the huge archived white flag the women on the death march had sewn by hand. Noticed by a French battleship, 5,000 were saved. Their message, “Please, save us. We are Christians. We will be slaughtered.”
When Congalton asked where the book was available, Badrigian quickly responded, “I hope people will buy it locally from the owners who have supported me from the beginning — Coalese Book Store and Volumes of Pleasure.”
Judy Salamacha is a member of The BookShelf Writers. To see more of her work, please visit www.thebookshelfwriters.com.