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Forgotten Fire

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 at 07:04 AM CT


Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Laure Leaf; Reprint edition (April 9, 2002)
Dimensions (in inches): 0.83 x 7.08 x 4.16
ISBN: 0440229170
In-Print Editions: Hardcover (1st)


Based on the true story of an Armenian boy who survives the near-extermination of his race.

It is 1915 and Vahan Kendarian, the pampered youngest son of one of the most influential Armenian families in Turkey, is confident that his privileged world will always include the house he loves, the laughter of his brothers and sisters, a sense of belonging. But when his uncle disappears and his father is taken away, when two brothers are shot before his eyes in the family garden, Vahan's world shatters. "Be steel," his father had always said when something tested his son's character. "Steel is made strong by fire." What is about to occur is Vahan's fire. In the next three weeks he will lose his home and know hunger and thirst for the first time. In the next three years he will become an orphan, a prisoner, a beggar, a servant, a stowaway in order to survive. He will meet and be befriended by the Horseshoer of Baskale, a Turkish governor famous for his practice of nailing horseshoes to the feet of his Armenian victims. He will live in a Turkish village, posing as a deaf mute and falling in love with the daughter of the only man in the village who guesses he is Armenian- and who is determined to kill him because of it. He will witness the murder and deportation of his neighbors and friends. And he will discover inside himself reserves of strength and courage he did not know existed. Based on the experiences of the author's great-uncle during the Armenian Holocaust, Forgotten Fire is the story of one boy's search for the survivor inside himself. It is the story of a lost nation-a powerful celebration of the resilience of the human spirit during the darkest of times. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Adam Bagdasarian was inspired to write Forgotten Fire after hearing a recording his great-uncle made about his experiences during the Armenian genocide of 1915. Adam Bagdasarian's short story, "The Survivor," based on the same experiences, won Yankee magazine's Fiction Award. Rosellen Brown praised it, saying, "'The Survivor' is in the oldest tradition of story-telling, bearing into the present not only the details but the feel of the details of the past. The orphaned Armenian boy, living in terror and silence and stifled pride among his enemies, seems to exemplify all exiles everywhere for whom 'the unknown went on forever.' This is a brief glimpse into the history of brutality and of lonely courage." Forgotten Fire is Mr. Badgasarian's first novel. He lives in New York City. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


In 1915 Vahan Kenderian is living a life of privilege as the youngest son of a wealthy Armenian family in Turkey. This secure world is shattered when some family members are whisked away while others are murdered before his eyes.

Vahan loses his home and family, and is forced to live a life he would never have dreamed of in order to survive. Somehow Vahan's incredible strength and spirit help him endure, even knowing that each day could be his last.


Forced to watch his father escorted out of their lives by Turkish police, his brothers shot to death in their backyard, his grandmother murdered by a rock-wielding guard, and his sister take poison rather than be raped by soldiers, 12-year-old Vahan Kendarian abruptly begins to learn what his father meant when he used to say, "This is how steel is made. Steel is made strong by fire." Up until 1915, Vahan has lived a cosseted life as the son of a wealthy and respected Armenian man. But overnight his world is destroyed when the triumvirate of Turkish leaders, Enver Pasha, Talaat Bey, and Djemal Pasha, begins the systematic massacre of nearly three-quarters of the Armenian population of Turkey, 1.5 million men, women, and children. Soon Vahan is an orphan on the run, surviving by begging, pretending to be deaf and mute, dressing as a girl, hiding out in basements and outhouses, and even living for a time with the Horseshoer of Baskale, a Turkish governor known for nailing horseshoes to the feet of his Armenian victims. Time and again, the terrified and desperate boy grows close to someone--and loses him or her to an appalling, violent death. Through three years of unspeakable horror, Vahan is made stronger by this fire, and by perseverance, fate, or sheer luck, he survives long enough to escape to the safe haven of Constantinople.

Brutally vivid, Adam Bagdasarian's Forgotten Fire is based on the experiences of his great-uncle during the Armenian Holocaust. The absolutely relentless series of vile events is almost unbearable, but the quiet elegance of Bagdasarian's writing makes this a novel of truth and beauty. Parental guidance is strongly suggested for younger readers of this extraordinary, heartbreaking account. (Ages 14 and older) -- Emilie Coulter -- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on his own great-uncle's experiences, Bagdasarian covers the years 1915-1918 when a boy from a wealthy, well-respected family from Bitlis, Turkey, is stripped of everything simply because he is Armenian. "The prose is often graceful and the events are as gripping as they are horrifying," said PW. Ages 14-up. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up-It would be misleading to say that readers will enjoy this debut novel, but it is certain that they will be captivated, frightened, and profoundly affected by it. It is based on the true story of a 12-year-old boy who survived the massacre that saw hundreds of thousands of Armenians murdered after the Young Turks came to power. In 1915, Vahan Kenderian lives a pampered life that he has no reason to believe will ever end. But end it does, and in a brutal way. After the disappearance of his father and uncle, Vahan witnesses the murder of his two eldest brothers in the garden of the family home and, after a forced march, loses the other members of his family one by one. He faces hunger, destitution, beatings, and sexual abuse, and is forced to watch as others are killed or raped as he crosses Turkey in an attempt to escape this persecution of his people. Throughout these experiences, he develops, matures, and strengthens his resolve, at the same time-understandably-learning to fear the loss of anyone he becomes close to. When he finally reaches freedom in Constantinople in 1918, it is as though readers have, in some small way, endured these experiences as well, and come away stronger. If you're looking for a new piece of historical fiction to inspire students and ignite discussions, this is it. Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Rosellen Brown author of Tender Mercies
... in the oldest tradition of story-telling ...a brief glimpse into the history of brutality and of lonely courage. -- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Nancy Kricoriam author of Zabelle
... an utterly compelling and elegantly written narrative fiction ... Forgotten Fire's convincing voice and heart-breaking details haunted me for days. -- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

A powerful historical novel....the first-person narrative is quiet, without sensationalism....
---- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Rosellen Brown, author of Tender Mercies
The Survivor is in the oldest tradition of story-telling, bearing into the present not only the details but the feel of the past... -- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Nancy ricorian, author of Zabelle
...Forgotten Fire's convincing voice and heart-breaking details haunted me for days. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Marek Breiger — Correspondent, Jewish Bulletin of Northern California..
“Novel on Armenian Genocide belongs on Jewish book shelves.”
— Book Review:

Marek Breiger's late grandfather, Joseph Gilden, barely escaped the atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust.  Mr. Gilden, whose sculptor “The Holocaust” is on permanent display at the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, was blinded as a result of a pogrom in Poland.  They lost many members of their family to Hitler.  Whenever Marek visited his grandfather, he would read to him.  Mr. Gilden especially liked William Saroyann

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