The echoes of our ancestors hold invaluable stories. This realization dawned on the students taking a Spring 2013 course, Armenian Studies 120T “Armenian Genocide Through Literature and Translation,” when a simple assignment to prepare a family tree lead to an overwhelming awakening of curiosity.
Dr. Sona Haroutyunian (University of Ca’ Foscari, Venice), Kazan Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies at Fresno State for the semester, went beyond simply teaching her lesson, to giving her students a means by which they could form a personal connection to their ancestors and to the topic of the course.
Suddenly, stirring inside the students was a desire to uncover the past, to question and to engage family members, and to commence a comprehensive investigation into the history of their family.
Every family has a story, a tale of survival, of adversity, and of fortune. Throughout the course of the semester, Dr. Haroutyunian conveyed the significance of memory and transgenerational interpretation and preservation. Students developed a broader understanding of the Armenian Genocide and presented it in the form of a memoir—a product of their various assignments and family explorations.
Students discussed an interpretation of their own family history with a personal memoir about an ancestor. This was not simply an assignment for a grade, but an eye-opening activity that brought each student closer to their predecessors and formed a relationship where previously none had existed. Each student presented a memoir that conveyed the great effort and energy invested to create a connection to their ancestors and pass on their stories. Soon enough, the project evolved from being a classroom assignment to a personal journey of discovering ones roots and appreciating the lives of generations passed. The writings were presented with pride, with each student understanding their role of helping to eternalize the memories and stories of their ancestors.
In a previous edition of Hye Sharzhoom, readers learned about the students’ writing progress and experience in working on the project. Though Dr. Haroutyunian returned to Venice to continue her teaching of Armenian language and literature, she continued working on the project with her students at Fresno State. Now, the Hye Sharzhoom audience has the opportunity to read the end-result and appreciate the effort and research placed into the creation of their final outcomes.
Following are excerpts from four student class memoirs.