ALTADENA, Calif. — Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Los Angeles Chapter, in collaboration with Istanbul Armenians’ Cultural Association and the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), organized a public forum to present two recently published books by the late Siran Seza.
This event took place on Thursday, November 5, at the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Beshgeturian center in Altadena. Despite the fact that it was a weekday, there were well over 150 people in attendance. Nazig Kojayan was the mistress of ceremonies.
Siran Seza, born Siranoush Zarifian in Istanbul in 1903, the sister of one author Mateos Zarifian. After her primary education in an Armenian school, she attended the American College for Girls and then traveled to the United States to get her higher education at Columbia University in New York. She then returned to Beirut, and became an ardent advocate for women’s rights. She passed away in 1973.
Maria Krisian was called upon to present Seza’s first book, Book of Genesis (Kirk Tznntots). It is a fascinating third-person account, written simultaneously as both a memoir and a novel that tells the story of a young heroine growing up under difficult circumstances. As the story develops, the reader follows along as the young protagonist gradually evolves into an independent person with a grounded, relatable point of view articulating pointed and insightful convictions on social affairs. This book reveals a perspective from an innovative author who was far ahead of her time.
Next, Silvia Kachigian, representing AIWA, took to the podium. Kachigian called Seza a pioneer for feminism who invited Armenian women to stand up for their rights and independence. Seza, Kachigian continued, promoted gender equity and criticized “stagnant minds” in her monthly publication of the journal Yeridasart Hayouhi, (The Young Armenian Woman) founded in 1932. This journal was published from 1932 to 1934 and then from 1947 to 1968.
Annie Kupelian, the daughter in law of Siran Seza, presented a PowerPoint presentation. The slides depicted the old Istanbul suburbs where Seza was born and raised. It also featured some of the historic sites of the famous city.
A musical interlude featured the mother and daughter duo of Sossie and Salpi Kerkunian, on harp and clarinet, respectively. It included a song from Armen Dikranian’s “Anoush” opera, Alakiaz by Gomidas and Spanish Romance from an unknown composer.
Dr. Minas Kojayan presented Seza’s second book, Shattered Lives (Khordagvatz Gyanker). Kojayan had flown in from Jerusalem especially for this occasion, as he was the editor of the book. He said that the book was a novel, a unique literary depiction of the lives of Armenians in Istanbul from the year 1912 to the year 1918. Seza wrote it when she was only 21 years old.
Kojayan further dwelled upon the setting of the novel, which conveys the inner turmoil of Istanbul’s Armenian youth, revealing how their romantic dreams were shattered and their aspirations for a bright future had collapsed around them. It is important to note that around this time, the same time in which the events of the novel take place, prominent Armenian intellectuals, including Krikor Zohrab, Taniel Varoujan and Siamanto were massacred, while Gomidas Vartabed, not able to endure the sufferings of his nation, lost his mind and was confined to an asylum. Thus, in this particular instance, we see how life reflects art, and art reflects life.
Rosaline Madoyan, representing the Istanbul Armenians’ Cultural Association, reiterated the fact that Seza was a true fighter for Armenian women’s rights, at a time when Armenian women were confined to the home, their duties revolving around family and household chores.
Furthermore, she had published two other books during her lifetime in Beirut, Lebanon: The Barricade (Badneshu) in 1959 and The Sinning Woman (Meghavorouhin) in 1960.
At last, Rev. Dr. Zaven Arzoumanian offered the Benediction, which was followed by reception.