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.
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