Monday, October 8th, 2012
Join me in welcoming Armineh Helen Ohanian to Highlighted Author.
Armineh was brought up in Iran before the Islamic revolution; earned her BA with honors from the Open University in the U.K. and lived in twelve countries before landing on the peaceful shores of Long Island. She paid her way through school writing the weekly romance feature in her church magazine in Tehran and translating children’s storybooks from English to Farsi. Among her published works are Dreaming of America, The Talking Animals and Magic. The Talking Animals, a collection of classical fables, has been used in schools in Long Island since 2003. But she’s here today with her new release, The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall.
Welcome, Armineh, please tell us about yourself.
I began my writing career as a teenager. At the age of fifteen, I wrote children’s stories and sent them unanimously to our church monthly magazine, Noor Jahan, in Tehran. Although, this happened ages ago, I never forget the day when I saw my first story in print. It happened on a Sunday after the church service when I bought the magazine from the church bookstore.
As I began leafing through the pages with trembling fingers, I suddenly came across my story. Though, my heart was fluttering with joy and excitement, I decided to keep calm and refrain from sharing the good news with my friends who were standing by me in the churchyard.
The following month I mailed another story, and it was published again. These secret writing episodes continued for a whole year without a single soul suspecting about the identity of the mysterious writer. For, I signed my name as, ‘AP’ – the initials of my first name, Armineh, and the last name – Petrossian.
One year later, while idling in the church yard with my friends, a nineteen-year-old boy called Mahmood, revealed my secret. He announced loudly, “I think I know who ‘AP’ is.” Mahmood, then laughed and carried on, “AP is nobody else, but our Armineh Petrossian.”
I blushed and fidgeted nervously. I was hoping to be able to keep my writing saga a secret for good. For me, the whole idea of being a mysterious writer was sensational. I loved it when I heard people saying what a good writer ‘AP’ was.
The news of the discovery of the mysterious writer in our church resonated like an exploding bomb. Subsequently, I became well-known not only in our church, but in churches all over Iran.
At eighteen I was already writing the magazine’s feature story. I was also translating books from English into Farsi.
I am a graduate from the American Girls School of Iran Bethel in Tehran. I also have a BA with honors from the Open University in the UK in Humanities.
I have authored two novels: Nine Years to Freedom and The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall. The latter was published by Lazy Day Publishing LLC on the 26th of September. I have also written two volumes of my children’s story series called The Talking Animals. Recently, I completed volume three—The Adventures of the Little Acorn—co-authored by my teenaged grandson, Alec Ohanian.
The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall, is a fiction—heavily based on my own life experiences. My purpose of writing this book has been to share with my readers—especially women—the lessons learned from a rich, challenging, and eventful life.
What they’re saying:
“Congratulations to Armineh Ohanien for the publication of her fascinating book THE APPLE TREE BLOSSOMS IN THE FALL. I had the pleasure of reading Ms. Ohanien’s manuscript before publication and it was an engaging read on a fascinating subject, giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of a family trying to escape an extremist regime in an historicaly significant period of time in the country of Iran shortly after the takeover by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Kudos to you, Armineh!”— Goldie Browning “Writer”, Amazon review
“The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall is a fascinating story! It transported me to a time and place where human relationships and habits were different from today. I traveled to Arak, a strict Islamic city where Carineh was born and raised until she was 11 years old. I lived through her experiences as a young girl in Teheran; rich and spoiled to start with, and then destitute. I saw her fall in love with the man of her life and go against her family wishes when they found out about his true identity. (forbid her to marry him.) I felt her insecurities and emotional ups and downs, wishing she were taller, blond, and more assertive. Some passages are really funny and others so sad…I cried when her beloved father died from pneumonia after he got baptized in a cold river to become a born again Christian. I was amazed to meet Ayatollah Khomeini as a guest in their house during the time when her father did some business transactions with him. This happened way before Ayatollah Khomeini took center stage in the Iranian politics. Reading this book made me realize that miracles are possible. Indeed, I saw the apple tree blossom in the Fall!”— MVVO, Amazon review
“Carineh and her sdventures kept a smile on my face every time I turned a page as I was invited to join her journey from Iran to Europe to the US as she pursued a new life with her husband and two children. From stories of her father trading tales with Khomeini in pre-revolution Iran, to her family’s fall to poverty when her father died from baptism in frozen waters, to her sudden love for the handsome Caro,, followed by the relisation that her husband was hiding a secret from her – these glimpses into this determined woman’s life were so intriguing. The insights into Armenian and Iranian culture were fabulous. The story moves swiftly and leaves you wanting more. A truly great read.”— BettyMay, Amazon review
The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall
The Islamic revolution is imminent. Carineh, an Armenian beauty, knows it is time to leave Iran. The country she grew up in is drawing back to its Islamic roots. Carineh would vehemently hate to wear a veil, to the point that she is willing to say goodbye to her homeland, her father’s resting place, her family, and friends.
In The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall, Carineh narrates stories of her life in an Iran before Ayatollah’s time. She also recounts tales about her new life in Europe and America. This book offers a unique insight into Iran, Islam, Armenian culture, and the fascinating life of a jet‐setting woman.
UNCLEAN AT ANY PRICE
My three brothers, my sister, and I were born in Arak, a city in central Iran. Our stately house was situated on a slight elevation at the end of Gerdu Street, on a four-acre plot of land that was protected by high walls. A block away, not too far from a chain of high reaching mountains, stretched the railroad tracks. I am sure people walking past our home wondered what lay behind those forbidding walls. To us, our enclosed property represented a safe haven: a place where vicious people could not harm us the way the Turks had massacred over one million of our people during the days of the Ottoman Empire. My father always kept a gun handy, just in case we encountered any danger. However, he had no use for it. Generally, Iranians are not a violent people.
Our property contained two buildings. One was a two-story house with a huge wraparound porch in which we lived. The other was a two-bedroom farmhouse-style building with facilities built for guests. I sometimes think that if Hars Jan had been alive, my father would have allocated the guesthouse to her. Alas, she died long before my father built our house.
One of the guests, who stayed there twice, happened to be Ayatollah Khomeini – at the time, Mullah Khomeini – with whom my father did some business transactions.
The first time Khomeini stayed at the guesthouse, our Muslim servants were shocked to see him eating food with an Armenian – my father.
I was not born yet when my father entertained Khomeini. I learned about his story through my brother, Arthur, years later. In 1979, when Khomeini came to power, I was a married woman, living with my husband and two teenage children in Monnetier, France.
My brother called me on a snowy morning and asked, “Do you have the TV on? They are showing Ayatollah Khomeini.”
I rushed to the sitting room and switched on the television to channel two – the special French national news channel. There he was, gingerly descending the air stairs of an Air France carrier at the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran. He appeared quite authoritative, in his black clerical aba and his white turbaned head. Khomeini gazed through his piercing pair of black eyes at the multitude gathered at the airport to greet him. He waved at them in a self-satisfied manner. The Ayatollah had overthrown the powerful Shah of Iran and was about to replace him.
Arthur’s excited voice echoed over the phone, “You know who this Khomeini character is, don’t you?”
I answered, “Not really.”
All I knew about the Grand Ayatollah was that he had been a nuisance to the Shah all through his reign, and that the Shah had deported him to Iraq. I was also aware that the Iranians had rebelled against their monarch, thanks to Khomeini.
“In the past, Ayatollah Khomeini was the lord of a village called Khomein,” Arthur explained. “Besides being a cleric, he was a merchant of hides, carpets, and resin-a valuable commodity in the textile industry.”
Arthur added that our father used to purchase these goods from Ayatollah Khomeini and shipped them to the United States.
Apparently Father met the young mullah the first time during a transaction at the bazaar, where my father’s office was located.
“Father found Khomeini to be an open-minded mullah,” Arthur told me. “Khomeini told Father that he was willing to read the Bible, provided our father would agree to read the Quran.”
The story goes as follows: after a few months, the two men began holding religious discussions together and comparing verses from the two Holy Books. Then, during one of Khomeini’s visits to Arak, my father invited him to stay over at our guesthouse.
That night, after the two men finished having their dinner and my father retired, Kall Askhar, the head servant, went to talk with Khomeini just before the young cleric prepared for bed. Khomeini, sitting in the armchair wearing his brown informal aba, stared at Kall Askhar through those same dark, piercing eyes quizzically.
Kall Askhar said softly, “Although we all love and respect Arbab Tadevos – Master Tadevos – and his family, we never touch their food.”
Khomeini, rubbing his thick beard, inquired with a smirk, “May I ask you why?”
Kall Askhar looked baffled! He thought that the honorable mullah should know better.
Khomeini, reading the servant’s mind, smiled, and shook his head. He then rose to his feet from the low armchair and approached Kall Askhar. Placing a firm, reassuring hand on his frail shoulder, he stressed, “Don’t worry, you can eat their food without having any remorse.”
“But…!” Kal Askhar protested, opening his small beady eyes widely. “Everyone knows that Armenians are Najis – defiled – and their food haram - unclean.”
Khomeini kept nodding his head and muttered, “The Armenians are clean, God-loving people just like us. Besides, these people have a Holy Book. What’s more, we Muslims accept their prophet, Jesus.” Khomeini smiled, and added, “And, yes, you can perform your daily prayers in this house.”
At the time of Ayatollah Khomeini’s visit, Arthur must have been a ten-year-old boy and my eldest brother, Arsen, was twelve. The following morning, Khomeini called the two boys to him and asked if they liked horses and donkeys. Arthur babbled eagerly, without giving Arsen a chance to open his mouth, “Oh, yes, we like horses and donkeys very much!”
During dinnertime, Khomeini had asked my father, “Where do you get the milk for your family?”
Father had answered that our milk came from a cow and some sheep from our own farm.
“How much milk does your cow produce per day?”
Father had rubbed his chin, contemplating for a second, and said, “Well, that’s a hard question to answer. We have never measured the milk.”
Khomeini had asked, “A bucket … two buckets?”
Father had nodded. “Yes, I should say one bucket.”
Khomeini had said, “That’s nothing. I’ll send you a young cow that will produce more than two buckets a day.”
That was how we came into the possession of a healthy, black cow and an extremely stubborn, snow-white donkey.
Arthur and Arsen loved their pet. The donkey was still alive and kicking people who approached him when I was born. Actually, I do remember him madly kicking up his hind legs as Arthur and Arsen teased him, and tried to ride him. I must have been three-years-old when he died.
Pondering my father’s and Khomeini’s business associations and their friendship, I ask myself, How could anybody in those days ever have guessed later in life, that same person would affect millions of Iranians’ lives so adversely? I also wonder what my father would have thought about Ayatollah becoming a dictator and causing all that bloodshed, if he were alive. Indeed, not only did Khomeini bring about death and destruction in Iran, he also changed the face of the Middle East for good. Khomeini was the reason why Islamic fundamentalism grew stronger, spreading like wildfire throughout the Muslim world.
Arthur’s voice on the other side of the line that day in 1979 suddenly shook me out of my reverie as he commented, “So, now you really know who Khomeini is.”
I walked toward the fireplace, held my left palm above its dancing flames, and laughed, “Yes… the same mullah who gave us the white donkey!”
Get your own copy of The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Apple-Tree-Blossoms-Fall/dp/1612580602/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349167464&sr=8-1&keywords=Armineh+Ohanian
Want more Armineh? Here’s where you can find her:
Author’s Den: http://www.authorsden.com/arminehhelenohanian