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April 24, 2015

Book Notes - Aline Ohanesian "Orhan's Inheritance"

Orhan's Inheritance

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Aline Ohanesian's impressive debut novel Orhan's Inheritance effortlessly moves between the 1915 Turkish puge of Armenians and the 1990s. Today is the official worldwide day of commemoration for the Armenian Genocide, which happened 100 years ago, the perfect time to celebrate this important book.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote of the book:

"A remarkable debut novel that exhibits an impressive grasp of history as well as narrative intensity and vivid prose‚Äč."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Aline Ohanesian's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Orhan's Inheritance:


Writing Orhan's Inheritance was in many ways like conducting an exorcism. It is a story of love and family secrets but the most difficult scenes in the book take place during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. I felt a tremendous responsibility to my grandparents who were all survivors. Music played a large role in the writing of this book - it helped transport me across time and space, and helped me channel the grief and sometimes outrage that 100 years of denial has created.


"Keler Tsorer" by Gomidas (My favorite is a rendition by Nune Mellikian)
Komitas was a musicologist and priest who from 1899- 1915 collected thousands of pieces of Armenian and Kurdish folk songs from remote Anatolian villages that would have otherwise been lost. In April of 1915 he was arrested along with 180 other writers, poets and intellectuals. Most were executed but Komitas was sent to a prison camp. After witnessing unspeakable horrors, Komitas suffered a mental breakdown and eventually died in a psychiatric ward in Paris. In many ways, Komitas single handedly saved the cultural heritage of Western Armenia that would have been disappeared after the genocide. I see Orhan's Inheritance as my own small contribution in preserving that culture. This rendition in particular transports me to the landscape of Anatolia and eventually reduces me to a puddle of tears.

"What the Waves Brought In" by jazz pianist Tigran Hamsyan.
I love how he blends American jazz with Armenian folk music. I heard him play this live in a little theater in Los Angeles a few years ago. His improvisations were like nothing I'd ever heard before. Just when you think the song is reaching toward a musical future, it bends back to an ancient past. Listening to it makes me believe that time is not linear at all.

"Siro Yerke" or Love Song: by renowned duduk player, Djivan Gasparian
A duduk is an Armenian Oboe, it's a single or double reed wind instrument made from the soft wood of the apricot tree. The melody is haunting and lovely. The song feels ancient and has a haunting quality.

"Arto" by System of a Down
This piece is a hidden song in System of a Down's Toxicity Album. It comes around 3:57, and starts out with a duduk, then weaves in a chant from the Armenian liturgy which is thousands of years old. The chant translates to "Lord have mercy." The tribal screeches are unexpected and wild. The song is like a quilt in many ways, it sews together hedonistic yelps, the liturgy, all to the beat of a hand beaten drum.

"Holy Mountains" by System of a Down
There is so much rage in this song. I played it whenever I had to write scenes from Ani's perspective. She's a character who, like me, is a descendant of genocide survivors. Unlike me, however, Ani isn't quite sure what to do with the trans-generational grief she's inherited. The song refers to the Holy Mountain of Ararat which is currently located in Turkey and has been a symbol of Armenian culture for six centuries.

"Desert Rose" by Sting
Part of this song is in Arabic and I have no idea what the words mean, but the English lyrics and the melody were on constant replay when I was writing the love scenes in the novel. I love the role the landscape plays in it. I think so much of what we experience and we remember is tied to the land on which we stand. For me, all stories are rooted in place. I always what to know where a story takes place. Without that information, stories float in some indecipherable ether I can't quite grasp.


Aline Ohanesian and Orhan's Inheritance links:

the author's website

Christian Science Monitor review
Kirkus review
Library Journal review
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review

Asbarez essay by the author
Bookselling This Week interview with the author
CarolineLeavittville interview with the author
Fiction Writers Review interview with the author
Library Journal essay by the author
Weekend Edition profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)


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