2013 March

Audio book, radio interviews and other news from the tour


With the AIWA San Francisco Chapter at Book Passage in the Ferry Building

With the AIWA San Francisco Chapter at Book Passage in the Ferry Building

I know it sounds a little corny, but I am thrilled that Suzanne Toren has recorded the audio book for ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS. Suzanne and I spent several hours on the phone going over the Armenian names and phrases in all three of my novels—audio versions of ZABELLE and DREAMS OF BREAD AND FIRE will be available soon—and I was awed by her ability to repeat things back with perfect pronunciation.

ZABELLE and ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS are downloadable as ebooks, and I recently signed a rider to my Grove/Atlantic contract for DREAMS so that ebook will soon be online as well. I feel grateful that all three of my novels will be available in all three formats—a book to hold in your hand, an electronic version to read on your device, and an audio version for your listening pleasure.

This week I did two radio interviews, one with the inimitable Leonard Lopate on WNYC and the other with the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey. More radio and even TV interviews are on the horizon. I will share when they are available.

I’m posting a favorite photo from the California leg of the ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS tour. I’m standing with some members of the Armenian International Women’s Association San Francisco Chapter at Book Passage in the Ferry Building. Their outpouring of warmth and enthusiasm made the evening one of the highlights of the trip.


On Vasily Grossman’s “An Armenian Sketchbook”

"An Armenian Sketchbook" by Vasily Grossman

“An Armenian Sketchbook” by Vasily Grossman

I discovered the work of Russian writer Vasily Grossman (1905-1964) a few years ago through his masterpiece, the World War II novel LIFE AND FATE. At the time, I had steeped myself in the literature of World War II because of work on my own novel, ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS, which is set in Paris during the Nazi Occupation, and Grossman’s book was a stunning surprise. Just a few weeks ago I picked up the newly published ARMENIAN SKETCHBOOK by Grossman. It is a memoir of the two months he spent in Soviet Armenia in late 1961, soon after LIFE AND FATE was suppressed by the authorities because of its unflinching portrayal of life in Stalinist Russia. Rather than imprisoning the author, they buried his book. LIFE AND FATE, which existed as a long-hidden typescript that Grossman had left with a friend, was finally published in the late 80’s, but Grossman died without knowing that his masterwork would see the light of day.

In ARMENIAN SKETCHBOOK, Grossman manages a combination of reverence for nature and for what is best in people with irreverence for the venality of corrupt officials and the baleful influence of nationalism. There is a beautiful and deeply humane scene at the end of the book when Grossman is a guest at an Armenian peasant wedding, and an old man rises to speak in Armenian; when his words are translated, Grossman is amazed to hear him speak of the connection between the terrible suffering of the Jews in World War II and the great catastrophe the Armenians endured in 1915. For Grossman, whose mother was killed in the Nazi massacres of Jews in Berdichev in September 1941, this was a profound moment of mutual recognition. Reading his work a half century later, I was privileged to share that recognition with him.


Nancy Kricorian

This post originally appeared on Writers Read

Sending A Child Out Into the World





A few days ago, a reader sent me a photo of ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS on the morning it arrived at his apartment in Honolulu one day after the official publication date. It reminded me of photos my friend Chris Bohjalian has posted to his Facebook author page that fans from around the country send him of his novels in the places where they are being read: back yards, living rooms, beachfronts, and boat decks. It also gave me a strange sensation to think that the characters I had lived with for so long were now in other people’s homes.

This past summer when a young Armenian radio interviewer I spoke with in Beirut suggested that producing a book was akin to birthing a child, I blurted out, “Actually I have given birth to two children and published two books, and that comparison has always seemed like something someone who has never experienced childbirth would say.”

She seemed taken aback, and I wish I had given a more generous response. After some thought, and during this time when my third novel is newly arrived in bookstores, I realize that I could have suggested that for me the experience is more akin to sending a child off to kindergarten for the first time. You have devoted years to grooming this child to go out into the world among his or her peers and into the care of others. It’s a little scary—will your kid get along with the other kids? Will the teacher like her? If she uses a curse word or slaps another kid, will everyone think you are a terrible parent? Your child is not you, but in some ways she is a reflection of your parenting and therefore an extension of you. I am not my book, but I devised the plot, wrote the sentences, and animated the characters. And now it is time for them to go play—nicely, but not TOO nicely, I hope!


Nancy Kricorian

Everyone’s A Critic

On sale date March 12, 2013

On sale date March 12, 2013


In the old days, publishers sent out bound galleys or proofs to a limited number of reviewers, journalists, film and translation scouts, and booksellers in the hopes of drumming up early interest in an upcoming title. Now there is Net Galley, a platform where a publisher can upload an electronic version of the galleys that provides early access to reviewers, bloggers, journalists, librarians, booksellers, educators and other “readers of influence.”

From what I can tell, people who have accessed ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS through Net Galley include members of the Amazon Vines reviewers program and a wide array of bloggers, some of whom posted ratings on Goodreads.

So far I have come across reviews from a young woman in Indonesia, on a blog called “A Sweet Spot Home” that features posts about entertaining along with book reviews, and on a blog called “BooksNFreshAir.” I have no idea how many people these advance reviews reach and how much they help the launch of a title, but my editor said, “They can’t hurt.”

What does it mean that there are now thousands of people weighing in on a book through blogs, customer comments, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and dozens of other platforms? Neil Gabler had an interesting piece in The Guardian a few years ago called “Everyone’s a critic now” that examines the effects of online community commentary on reviewing. He sums up his argument thus: “The point is that authority has migrated from critics to ordinary folks, and there is nothing—not collusion or singleness of purpose or torrents of publicity—that the traditional critics can do about it. They have seen their monopoly usurped by what amounts to a vast technological word-of-mouth of hundreds of millions of people.”

March 12 is the official publication date of ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS, and the early reviews will soon be joined by those from mainstream outlets along with a cacophony of amateur reviews and customer comments. Bring on the vibrant, noisy, democratic conversation.



Nancy Kricorian

A Devotion to Human Dignity

Stéphane Hessel in New York City, October 2012

Stéphane Hessel in New York City, October 2012


“Death is a great project, of all experiences it is perhaps the most interesting of all. We shall see what remains and what will be. Life has been beautiful, with awful moments and admirable ones. Death shall perhaps be even more beautiful, who knows!” ~ Stéphane Hessel

Stéphane Hessel (1917-2013) died in his sleep last week at the age of 95.  He was a member of the French Resistance, a Buchenwald survivor, a co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a diplomat, and the author of TIME FOR OUTRAGE (Indignez-Vous!), a pamphlet that sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide and was credited as the inspiration for the Ingidnados Movement, which was a precursor of Occupy. Hessel’s motto, “To resist is to create, and to create is to resist,” became a rallying cry for young people the world over.

It was in his capacity as a juror and the honorary president of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine that I met Stéphane Hessel in London in November 2010. The first time I saw him, I didn’t know anything about him beyond the brief biography in the program, but he spoke the most elegant French I had ever heard, and his charm, grace, and intelligence suffused the auditorium with warmth and humanity as he talked.

When I came back to New York, I sought out his books and learned more about his extraordinary life. His parents were the models for the characters in Truffaut’s film Jules et Jim. He was a hero of the French Resistance, and survived execution at Buchenwald only because a doctor in the camp switched his identity with that of another French prisoner who had died. Hessel entertained himself and others in the camp by reciting the hundreds of poems that he had memorized in French, German and English. (Hessel edited a collection of these poems entitled O ma mémoire: la poésie, ma nécessité that was published in 2006.) He spent a lifetime devoted to causes that embodied his respect for international law and the dignity of each individual. Towards the end of his life, his vocal support for Palestinian human rights resulted in some ugly attacks against his character, but he was not swayed.

I saw Hessel again when he was in New York in October 2012 for the New York session of the Russell Tribunal. He was as inspiring as ever, although a little more frail, having difficulty at times navigating the steps up to the dais where the jurors sat. I noticed as he spoke that most of the people in the room were completely smitten by him. It occurred to me that he had the charisma one expects in movie stars and politicians. What an amazing thing that he had devoted his magnetic personality not to accruing wealth or power, but to the great humanitarian causes of our age.



Nancy Kricorian